Thomas Kim


The hypothalamus is composed of a diverse array of neuronal and glial cell types, many of which are organized into spatially discrete clusters known as nuclei. The hypothalamus is essential for regulating a broad range of homeostatic physiological processes. Progress in this area has been hampered, however, by the fact that hypothalamic cell types thus far have remained quite poorly characterized. Still, less is known about how hypothalamic cell types acquire their identities during development.

In the lab of Professor Seth Blackshaw, I have utilized rapidly advancing single-cell RNA-Sequencing (scRNA-Seq) technology to analyze the hypothalamus development at cellular resolution and profile changes in gene expression across all developmental stages. I integrate our findings of genes that control hypothalamic regionalization and neurogenesis and findings of gene regulatory networks that control cell identity to generate a Hypothalamic Developmental Database (HyDD). Our HyDD reference atlas is used to address various aspects of developmental biology: 1) comprehensive analysis of complex mutant phenotypes and 2) development of hypothalamic neuronal subpopulations.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work? I chose to do my postdoctoral training here at Johns Hopkins because of its excellent reputation as a research institution and very collaborative environment. My research interests aligned well with Professor Blackshaw’s research theme as well. What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received? Receiving this award is a true testimony of the research project my students and I worked so hard on and are very proud of. It is an extreme honor receiving the award named after Paul Ehrlich, who did pioneering groundbreaking research on immunology and chemotherapy. What contributed to your project's success? First, excellent guidance by Professor Blackshaw. We have similar research interests and saw a huge opportunity with recently advancing technology to address our research questions. Second, excellent support from my students: sheer brilliance and great work ethics. I can’t thank my students enough. Third, collaborative research environment at Johns Hopkins. What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins? The true testimony of everyone’s hard work. I think awards this year are extra special because of the difficulties everyone faced due to COVID-19. What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins? When we generated the first successful scRNA-Seq dataset of the developing hypothalamus. Professor Blackshaw and I saw new phases of developmental neuroscience. What are your plans over the next year or so? I am looking for a faculty position, and I hope to wrap up and publish the rest of the research projects. Tell us something interesting about yourself. I’m from New Zealand. I don’t think there are that many kiwis at Johns Hopkins. I am also a self-proclaimed foodie and enjoy cooking and baking.