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Newest biomedical engineering faculty hopes to advance tools for cancer treatment

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Posted September 28, 2018

Hyeun Joong Yoon, Ph.D, is new to the College of Engineering this fall. An assistant professor in the electrical and biomedical department, Yoon’s research interests focus on developing engineering methods in nanomaterial science and advanced bioMEMS tools to improve diagnostics for cancer research.

Yoon joined the University of Nevada, Reno in July after previously working for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at South Dakota State University. He earned his Ph.D at Ajou University in South Korea.

“I came to [The University] because I was looking for a better place for my family to live,” Yoon said. “South Dakota was a beautiful and peaceful place but last winter was too cold. I’ve been here in Reno for five weeks, and it’s always sunny, no clouds.” Yoon said he also prefers the diverse environment that Reno provides, in addition to the prominent Korean community here.

Research on circulating tumor cells could help with early cancer detection

Yoon researches developments on low-cost, biocompatible devices that can capture and release circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, from cancer patients’ blood samples. Yoon wants to create cutting-edge engineered solutions to clinical issues with the newest biomedical research tools.

CTCs detach from an original tumor and travel through the bloodstream to distant sites. Only 10 cells exist in 1 ml of blood but they can provide clinical information for all cancer types, and Yoon has been focusing on melanoma, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer in particular.

“This research is very helpful because it can be used in early cancer detection. It can be used with RNA and DNA extraction, which can tell us what to look for as opposed to a tissue biopsy, which looks at blood only for [a cancer diagnosis],” Yoon said.

Yoon collaborates with the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center for breast cancer research and the University of Iowa Cancer Center for melanoma. After joining the University, he started a research collaboration with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Currently he has a research team of seven: five undergrads and two graduate students. His most recent research has been featured in scientific journals such as Nature Nanotechnology, Advanced Materials and Cell Systems.

Yoon joins a growing program in biomedical engineering that includes five faculty members with expertise ranging from developing sensors and prosthetic devices to identifying novel delivery vehicles for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes to biological modeling. The department offers a master’s and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and began offering a bachelor’s degree in 2016.

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