Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Peter S. Kim

  • 1995-May-23 – 1995-May-24
  • 1995-May-26

Peter S. Kim was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to parents who had emigrated from Korea after the Korean War and were studying at Georgia Institute of Technology. His father was a chemical engineer, his mother a biochemist. He had a sister who was several years younger. While he was still a child, his family moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where his father was a professor at the University of Massachusetts; from there they moved to Brooklyn, where Peter attended school for a few years; then they moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey, so that his father could work in New York City. Peter's mother became a high school science teacher. For a while Peter and his family attended a Korean church, but then they switched to an American Presbyterian church; here Peter discovered a love of music and began to sing. He entered Cornell University, where his chemical engineering major lasted just one semester before he switched to chemistry. He met his wife-to-be when he was a freshman. From Cornell Peter was accepted into the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Stanford University to complete a joint MD/PhD degree. After two years of medical school Peter decided he wanted to do only research so he dropped the MD In Robert "Buzz" Baldwin's lab Peter worked on nuclear magnetic resonance to develop pulse-labeling in protein folding. Another interest he developed was in catalytic antibodies. Having decided not to finish medical school, Peter knew he had to obtain a postdoctoral position. He won the third Whitehead [Institute for Biomedical Research] fellowship granted. In his lab at the Whitehead he developed a peptide model of a protein-folding intermediate and worked on Leucine zippers and coiled coils with his postdocs and assistants. At the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research he was promoted first to assistant and then to associate member; Peter also became first an assistant and then associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an associate investigator at the Howard Hughes; he remains in all three positions today.

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