Trio wins UT STARs Awards

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Three new members of the McGovern Medical School faculty, Jayhun Lee, PhD; Kangho Kim, PhD; and Yang Liu, PhD; have earned The University of Texas System’s STARs Awards.

The UT System Board of Regents created the Faculty Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program in 2004 to help UT institutions attract and retain outstanding faculty. Awards, which can be used to purchase equipment and renovate facilities, require institutional support and are available to support the recruitment and retention of tenure-track faculty members at any rank.

Jayhun Lee, PhD
Lee joined the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as an assistant professor, after winning a $250,000 UT System Rising STAR Award. Prior to joining the faculty, he served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Morgridge Institute for Research of the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

While at the Morgridge Institute, Lee worked in the lab of Phillip Newmark, PhD, internationally known for his investigations of planarians, or harmless free-living flatworms known for their regenerative properties. Lee’s most recent work focused on the development of a research program for the developmental biology of schistosomes, organisms that cause schistosomiasis, a tropical disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide.

Lee was born and partially raised in the United States, and received some of his education in South Korea. He earned his bachelor of science in biological science from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, before returning to the United States for graduate school, earning his PhD in biochemistry at Cornell University.

“The recruitment of Dr. Jayhun Lee to UTHealth will enhance existing strengths of discovery science and translational research program at McGovern Medical School and foster collaborative efforts with other institutions in the Texas Medical Center,” said Theresa Koehler, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Yang Liu, PhD
Also a winner of a $250,000 UT System Rising STAR Award, Liu joined the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology as an assistant professor. Liu previously served as an assistant instructor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Liu was a member of the laboratory of Beth Levine, MD, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where she investigated the fundamental and critical question of how cellular signaling pathways are regulated during exercise to coordinate metabolic changes. Recently, Liu published the finding of a novel, non-immune role of an innate immune receptor, toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), in the regulation of metabolic signaling pathways during exercise in skeletal muscle, in the journal Nature.

Liu received her bachelor of science and master of science degrees from Tsinghua University in China in 2006 and 2008, respectively. She completed the PhD program in biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences at Universite Catholique de Louvain, de Duve Institute in Belgium in 2013.

“Dr. Liu is an outstanding researcher who is clearly a rising star in her field based on her outstanding publication and recent grant awards,” said John F. Hancock, PhD, chair of the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology.

Kangho Kim, PhD
Kim also was awarded the UT System Rising STAR Award of $250,000 and joins the Medical School as an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology from Baylor College of Medicine, where he has been an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology since 2018.

Kim’s research centers around studying hepatic bile acid signaling and nuclear receptor functions in metabolic disorders. Recently, Kim had a series of studies published in Hepatology, Hepatology Communications, and Endocrinology, where he identified molecular mechanisms of dichotomous effects of bile acid in metabolic regulation leading to future studies that may help identify how the liver drives inter-organ crosstalk in response to high bile acid stress.

Kim graduated with a bachelor of biological sciences from Seoul National University in 2002 before completing the university’s PhD program in the same field in 2008.

“Dr. Kim’s dedication to science and exceptional productivity defines him as a promising young scientist in the field of liver research,” said Holger K. Eltzschig, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. “Dr. Kim is truly the type of person who will initiate multiple collaborative research programs and strengthen our research efforts at UTHealth and the UT System.”