Spotlight: Dr. Gabriel Kwong

As an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Gabriel Kwong – now Associate Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory – knew that he wanted to study biology but had always enjoyed math and physics. Thus, majoring in bioengineering felt only natural to him, and after his undergraduate years (which he felt went by too quickly), Kwong decided to pursue a graduate degree at the California Institute of Technology. While there, he worked in the lab of Dr. James Heath, a renowned chemist who aided in the synthesis of the C60 compound that won Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, and Harold Kroto the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Afterwards, Kwong went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Sangeeta N. Bhatia to develop innovative nanotechnologies for cancer research and global health.

Kwong now runs the laboratory for Synthetic Immunity on the third floor of the Marcus Nanotechnology building at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He came to Georgia Tech after several professors reached out to him, and, more importantly, for the academic atmosphere, one that creates the perfect opportunity to run an immunoengineering lab and can be attributed to the proximities of and relationship between Georgia Tech and Emory University. A recent arrival to the Coulter Department, Kwong teaches BMED 2210 in a unique “Socratic” style. In other words, he engages his students by getting them to think about how equations are structured, and he likes his students to approach exams and homework as learning opportunities rather than frustrating obstacles.

Outside the classroom, Dr. Kwong’s research focuses on immunoengineering, and more specifically, on cancer immunotherapy. His research differs from biologists who work to discover the fundamental mechanisms by which immune cells target cancerous cells. Rather, Kwong focuses on designing new methods and technologies to exploit these fundamental discoveries. His future research areas include discovering new cancer antigens, as well as enhancing current immunotherapies. What Kwong enjoys the most about his work is the academic freedom: the ability to tackle problems that he personally finds interesting, and the thrill from solving these problems over a long period of time.

Aside from work, Dr. Kwong enjoys watching American Ninja Warrior and is learning the acoustic guitar. He also enjoys frequenting the gym and, if he had the time, would like to hike the whole Appalachian trail. Valuable lessons that he has learned include the importance of collaboration and learning from others and that no single person is smarter than a collective group, concepts that could very well apply to studying at Georgia Tech!