Eric Hoyeon Song was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Buena Park, California with his parents and younger brother when he was eight. Eric vividly remembers one of his first days of school in the United States; he entered his classroom without speaking the language, and to add onto the feelings of fear and awe, everyone was dressed in bizarre costumes—it was Halloween. To this day, he thinks about those feelings as he navigates new challenges and environments.
While Eric was adjusting to a new country, his parents faced financial, emotional, and mental challenges that immigrants often face acclimating to a foreign country. Despite these hardships, his parents’ selfless and endless support in providing him with a wide breadth of experiences fostered his interests in the arts and sciences, which Eric is forever grateful for.
The teachers and mentors Eric met growing up greatly impacted his vision for the work he wants to do: providing children with better opportunities. In pursuing this goal, Eric cofounded a nonprofit organization, Project L, and worked at Teach for America as a campus campaign coordinator during his time at the University of Southern California. After obtaining a biochemistry degree from USC, Eric got a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins, performing research on optimizing gene delivery methods that could help brain tumor and cystic fibrosis patients. He continued to develop drug delivery systems to treat brain tumors at Yale University with Professor Mark Saltzman, publishing his findings in Nature Communications.
Currently, Eric is an MD/PhD student at Yale University. His research focuses on brain tumors, but now includes an immunological perspective accompanying his engineering training. Working with his PhD mentor, Professor Akiko Iwasaki, he identified a key limiting factor in invoking an immune response against brain tumors, which was published in Nature. Eric wants to continue working on translational research that can one day provide new therapies for patients. Ultimately, he envisions leading an interdisciplinary team that provides chronically ill children with medical help and scientific research that can cure disease, while integrating aspects of a child’s development, education, social stability, and emotional learning to ensure that all children may have the best opportunities growing up.