USC Professor Wins Ho-Am Award
Jung was recognized as a leading authority in molecular biology for effective prevention and treatment of viral diseases.
The Keck Professor is one of five prize recipients from around the globe who will be honored at a June 1st ceremony in Seoul, where he will deliver a commemorative lecture.
The award consists of a 6-ounce gold medal, a laureate diploma and 300 million Korean won, approximately $265,000.
The Ho-Am prize winner began his interest in infectious disease in fourth grade when a substitute teacher brought a book on infectious disease to class. His father soon bought him a microscope.
“I don’t know why, but the book was just so fascinating. I just memorized it from the first page to the last page,” said Jung.
Jung furthered his academic interest at Seoul National University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science. He later moved to the United State in 1985 where he earned his PhD in microbiology at the University of California-Davis within four years.
Jung also wrote three publications during that time, which he originally wrote in Korean and translated into English.
For his post-doctoral work, he began research at Harvard Medical School’s New England Primate Research Center in 1990.
During this time, he intensely studied animals infected with the gamma-2 herpes virus, a virus that can cause cancer. In 1994, researchers discovered a human form of the virus called Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common cancer among AIDS patients. Already well-versed on the subject, Jung turned his research on human subjects.
Jung’s research in animal and human versions of the virus made him a highly regarded and sought after professor in his field. He served as chair of the division of tumor virology at Harvard, becoming one the first tenured professors from Korea.
In January 2008, USC hired Jung to work at the Keck School of Medicine as the head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. Under his leadership, the department has doubled its faculty to 22 members, while its annual grant portfolio has grown eight-fold.
“This research has the potential to help so many people,” Jung said. “Our team at USC has an expertise in infectious disease - we study how and why people get sick so that we can find a way to cure them. I was at Harvard Medical School for 19 years, but I came to the Keck School of Medicine of USC because I wanted to contribute to public health in a more direct way - I think that is what the Ho-Am Prize Committee is recognizing with this prize. And I am truly humbled.”