Scientist Yung Lie funds young scientists pursuing innovative new research

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides scientists early in their careers with grants to pursue innovative research that may not be supported elsewhere. Yung Lie, a Pelham resident, is the president of the foundation. As president, Lie oversees the foundation’s efforts to provide funds to young researchers with high risk ideas in every area of cancer research. Her personal efforts, as well as those of the foundation, create opportunities for students and women in particular to gain an advantage in a typically challenging field.

A scientist in training, Lie’s unique perspective allows her to understand both the administrative and research sides of the foundation. She began her career working in a lab, and has since shifted her role to include more general management of the organization. From a young age, her interest in science was clear; over the years, however, that interest has taken many forms.

“I was very interested in understanding how things work.” Lie described her constant curiosity for knowing how even the simplest household items functioned. This passion took hold as she entered college with the intention of going into a medical career. She fell in love with scientific experimentation and research, and “that sense of discovery when you’re learning something that nobody has ever done before.”

Lie wanted to make a broader impact with her passion for research, and soon found herself in the ranks of the non-profit foundation. Recognizing the opportunities that she received in her own young career, Lie works with the Damon Runyon foundation to assist scientists at a time when they must struggle with the stress of starting their own lives while also having to deal with the unpredictability of a research career.

 Many of these researchers are women, often starting families alongside their careers. “There are a lot of challenges to trying to pursue a career like that, and trying to find some balance in your life,” explains Lie. 

To relieve some of this stress, the foundation has developed options for researchers in such a position, including providing a childcare allowance for young mothers and a medical loan repayment program for the many students leaving medical school with over $200,000 in debt.

From her experience in varying roles in the scientific world, Lie provides advice for young researchers everywhere.

“Be proactive and take initiative!” she says. She emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of new experiences; even more crucial, though, is to remember that “you can’t say yes to everything.” Whether in or outside of scientific research, Lie urges us to remember that, “there will be times when you do need help,” and it is always good to ask for it.

Editor’s note: This profile is a part of a four-part series on women in science in Pelham, in cooperation with Pelham Reads.