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Dinner with Dr. Leroy Hood

Lingchong Mai

Lingchong Mai, Senior, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 24 February 2012 – Last night, I was one of 10 Engineering Ambassadors who had a wonderful chance to have dinner with Dr. Hood Leroy, the Russ Prize winner of 2011.

Dr. Hood’s research areas include molecular biotechnology, immunology, genomics, DNA sequencing, where he developed a systems approach to studying these topics. He got his PHD from Caltech, and MD from John-Hopkins. He is one of only 10 people in the world to be elected to National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. In addition to being an amazing scientist, he is also talented in business. He has helped to establish 14 famous biotechnology companies including Institute of System Biology, Amgen, Applied Biosystems.

Dr. Hood was very nice and pleasant to talk with. During the whole night he shared a lot of his early experience as a student in Caltech, his interests and opinion towards the research topics, and his attitude towards the career. I still remember that when he talked about his idea of commercializing the DNA sequencing was rejected by the president of Caltech, he did not give up. He said, if you think an idea is right, you should stick to it, and do your best to carry it out. Then he tried to persuade the instrument manufacturing companies to actually make DNA sequencing instruments. He got approval from the president of a company and got funding for the project. However, the guy who actually was in charge of the project disliked Dr. Hood and he directly talked to the top manager without letting Dr. Hood in, and showed a negative attitude and refused to cooperate, which finally led to the failure of the project. Dr. Hood said: “From the case, I learned a lession that if you really want to bring an idea into business, you have to persuade the top guy, but on the other hand, don’t just leave out the mid-level manager.”

Dr. Hood also shared his funny story of meeting and travelling with Bill Gates; his opinion to the president election and political issues; and his early experience of learning foreign languages. He also discussed with us about our future career and the impression of our majors, the Russ College, and Ohio University. This was a very enjoyable, impressive, and wonderful night.