Soon Keat Ooi
National University of Malaysia, Bangi
Thesis: Structure-function analysis of the human INO80 chromatin remodeling complex
Before Soon Keat Ooi ever set foot on US soil he was already intimately familiar with the Stowers Institute. An Internet search for “histone modifications”—which are an integral part of the regulatory network that controls whether genes are on or off—had led him straight to Stowers Investigator Jerry Workman’s research. Equally impressed by the rest of the world-renowned investigators who call Stowers their intellectual home, Ooi applied to the institute’s graduate program.
Although he found Stowers through virtual means, his scientific curiosity was sparked in a hands-on manner. In high school biology class, his classmates refused to even touch a frog during a dissection, but Ooi leaped at the opportunity to disassemble the frog and then spent hours studying it. Afterwards, Ooi felt increasingly compelled to learn about the molecular origins of disease, particularly after his grandmother succumbed to cancer.After graduating from the National University of Malaysia with a degree in molecular biology, Ooi took a position as a research assistant and started working on the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, which causes a life-threatening disease endemic to Malaysia and parts of Australia. Throughout his training, mentors had emphasized the importance of understanding how biological processes are regulated, kindling Ooi’s interest in the epigenome. Little did he know that in his quest to learn more, a simple Internet search would take him from Kuala Lumpur to Kansas City.