berkeley phd student poses with uc president drake with large check

Berkeley takes first place!

Growing up Justin Lee wanted to be an astronomer. This third-year PhD student from the Bay Area is studying Metabolic Biology, Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology. Not quite astronomy.

He does wear an extreme PPE suit when he is working in the lab doing COVID-19 research. The lab PPE is in some ways similar to an astronaut suit. After giving a three minute talk about his research at the UC systemwide Grad Slam, he jokes, “One way to fulfill a dream while keeping my feet on the ground.” 

Justin’s presentation, titled Jamming the SARS-CoV-2 Copy Machine, won him first place at the UC Berkeley Grad Slam in April. As the Berkeley finalist, Justin went on to compete against the nine other UC campuses on May 6, and has officially won the first place! Justin takes home $7,000 and the highly coveted “Slammy” award.

As a metabolic biologist turned corona virologist, Justin explores the synergy between disease biology and clinical medicine with hopes of solving the challenges of the pandemic and developing effective therapeutics against the virus.

His research is about trying to develop a new treatment for COVID-19. His engaging talk was centered around a copy machine metaphor to easily communicate how variants behave and most importantly how his ASO discovery can stop this, “copy machine”.

Watch Justin in the 2022 UC systemwide Grad Slam.

Watch all the Berkeley Finalists at the Berkeley Grad Slam event held on April 11. 

This year’s system wide competition was hosted by none other than the University of California President, Michael Drake. After each student’s talk, like an experienced talk-show host, Drake tosses a few light questions to each finalist. 

When asked by UC President Michael Drake, “What’s something your grad advisor doesn’t know about you?” 

Slightly embarrassed and hoping his grad advisor isn’t watching, Lee responds, “I definitely make my own hours. … depending on when the caffeine kicks in could be 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. just depending on when I get out of bed. I work best that way and hopefully he doesn’t come knocking on my door when I’m not there.” 

“I’m sure what your advisor notices is the quality of your work which is obviously excellent,” replies Drake.

“I’m sure what your advisor notices is the quality of your work which is obviously excellent,” replies President Drake.

Congrats Justin! Go Bears! 

Learn about how to compete in Berkeley Grad Slam.