Name: Paul Ha-Yeon Cheong
Area of study / position title: Computational Chemistry / Vicki and Patrick F. Stone Scholar Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Why chemistry? (What about it initially interested you, etc.): Because our discoveries change lives. Our materials send you to the moon and back, and one day they will send you to the stars. We conquer disease and master biology through chemistry. One day you will return to health again because of what we have labored so long and hard to achieve. From polio to cancer to all the diseases we acquire during our lifetime spent on this planet and this ecosystem, we are the ones who ultimately protect our loved ones. We are humanity’s answer and hope to the energy challenge, global warming, and preserving this green earth for posterity. And also because my mentors and teachers have shown me that we can achieve all that without losing our humanity but by cherishing it, nurturing it. One may very well ask why chemistry, but for me the question has always been why not chemistry?
Research focus (in non-science terms) or basic job duties?: I have two key aspects of my job. I see my primary job function as a friend, mentor and teacher to our research group and those around me. My goal is for their time in our research group and in my company to be transformative and wholesome: discovering who they really are, becoming professionally successful, and coming into one’s own. The second aspect is all my official responsibilities, which happens to magically complement the first aspect: publishing papers, teaching courses, mentoring students, writing grants, etc.
One thing that you truly love about your job?: I love that I get to make a positive impact in this world, one individual at a time. Plus, I get to work with (and occasionally mentor and train) some of the most amazing minds and wonderful individuals on the face of the planet today.
One interesting/strange factoid about yourself: I got my name “Paul” from a middle school foreign language teacher. He was handing back exams and when he got to mine, he couldn’t pronounce “Ha-Yeon”. After a couple of moments of what appeared like a gagging reflex trying to pronounce my name in his native tongue, he proclaimed that I was to be dubbed “Paul” from then on. True story. Love the name.