One Young Scientist’s Experience in Sleep Research Mentorship

Meet Hyeon Jin Kim, MD, PhD, member of the 2020 class of mentees in ISRTP

In 2019, Dr. Hyeon Jin Kim applied for the International Sleep Research Training Program (ISRTP) while working on her PhD and as a clinical neurologist fellow at her home institution, Ewha Womans University Hospital in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

After completing her residency as a neurologist, she was eager to also build an academic, translational research career, helping to uncover clinical solutions for the patients she saw in clinic.

However, her large clinical commitment also made advancement in research difficult. That’s where she saw ISRTP as a one-of-a-kind opportunity to dedicate her time for developing research skills and connecting with the sleep research community.

Hyeon Jin Kim, MD, PhD

ISRTP stands out as the pivotal juncture that unquestionably provided me with the essential network and knowledge foundation required for my role as a sleep researcher. Without a doubt, it has been the most significant stride in my journey,” says Dr. Kim, several years later now.

Research and Mentorship in the United States

After acceptance into ISRTP, Dr. Kim was matched with two mentors at Harvard Medical School: Dr. Susan Redline and Dr. Michael Prerau. With their mentorship, she wanted to advance her understanding of artificial intelligence and machine-learning in sleep, particularly in EEG signal analysis. Her experience and training at Ewha had already taught her that this would be an essential discipline to understand for future clinical applications.

“Dr. Prerau has been instrumental in imparting the latest techniques in EEG signal analysis, bridging the gap between transitional clinical approaches and cutting-edge technology,” Dr. Kim says.

Her time in his lab allowed her to grow in knowledge and experience regarding these emerging technologies – and to not only understand their technical aspects but to see how such advancements can translate to clinical practice. “One of Dr. Prerau’s exceptional qualities lies in his ability to keenly listen to the unmet clinical needs I have encountered in my practice. His attentive ear and insightful guidance have empowered me to envision how EEG signal analysis can play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges.”

More than anything else, ISRTP shows that researchers never work in isolation: research is accomplished through community.

Such was Dr. Kim’s experience in mentorship with Dr. Susan Redline. “Dr. Redline stands out as a beacon of inspiration and a pioneer for young female scientists like myself,” Dr. Kim says. It wasn’t only Dr. Redline’s groundbreaking work in the consolidation of sleep research data that inspired Dr. Kim – it was “also the inclusive and empowering environment she fostered within her research teams. Dr. Redline’s inclusive leadership in action to assemble and nurture large research teams has been a profound source of inspiration for me and countless other aspiring scientists.”

Dr. Kim since ISRTP

Since completing her mentorship program in 2020, Dr. Kim has joined Korea University Medical Center as a clinical assistant professor in the department of neurology.

She has also continued to connect with the ISRTP and World Sleep communities, attending 2022 and 2023 World Sleep congresses in Rome and Rio de Janeiro.

Her abstract presentation “Chronotype advance as a predictor of subsequent cognitive function and brain volume regression: a 4-year longitudinal cohort study” earned the Young Investigator Award at World Sleep 2022, and she has also participated in multiple other scientific sessions and continuing professional development sessions for the ISRTP mentees and mentors.

Korea University Hospital in Seoul

I want to encourage everyone to wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity and become our colleagues without hesitation,” Dr. Kim says when asked what advice she would give to a young researcher in sleep. “Without a doubt, it has been the most significant stride in my journey. I really want to emphasize that it is the gateway to acquiring the indispensable resources and expertise needed in the realm of sleep medicine research,” she concludes.

World Sleep Society is honored to have had the participation of Dr. Hyeonjin Kim in ISRTP. Her story and her hard work demonstrate exactly the kind of difference ISRTP can make in the career of a young researcher. We can’t wait to see where Dr. Kim’s career takes her personally and where she will take the field of sleep research into the future.

World Sleep Society never stops searching for mentees in our next cohort of mentee-mentor placements. Learn more about ISRTP and contact us to set up a discussion on the program!