Learning Undefeated’s STEM Spotlight series features young professionals from diverse backgrounds who are working to make a difference in science, business, medicine, engineering, and technology fields. Each short video includes a profile of the job role and information about how they came to be interested in STEM.
STEM Spotlight, John W. Bullen Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Bioscience
Oncology R&D | Research and Early Development
John Bullen is an oncology drug discovery and early development scientist with over 15 years of research experience dissecting molecular mechanisms underpinning onset and progression of cancer and metabolic diseases. For the last 3+ years, John has been leading efforts to discover and develop novel immuno-oncology drug targets and next-generation in vivo expressed biologics platforms at AstraZeneca. John completed his Ph.D. training in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and continued his postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins under the mentorship of Dr. Gregg L. Semenza, co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. John has authorship on 24 publications (h-index=21) and three NIH-funded grant awards, including receipt of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (NIGMS; F32). John’s hobbies include cooking, gardening, beach camping and binge watching Disney Pixar films with his kids.
I’m John Bullen, I’m a cancer scientist at Astra Zeneca. We essentially try and find cures for diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease or heart failure, diabetes and obesity, the flu. More specifically, my job at Astra Zeneca is to figure out a way to make your immune system attack cancer.
A common problem is that we want to kill a cancer cell but not your normal cells. If you can imagine your body is the earth, a cell would be like a city, and every city is different. So, the question is how can we get something to block access into one city but not access into another city. That’s a very critical question that we are constantly trying to figure out how to do but doing that in a microscopic level in a way where we can see what’s going on.
The first time I was interested in science would’ve been when I saw my first tomato plant grow and I couldn’t figure out how something like that can come from a seed. Science is all about curiosity and about things we don’t understand. Why is the sky blue? Why are plants green? It’s all about asking questions. If you’re interested in finding out things that you just simply don’t understand; whether that be biology, physical sciences, mathematics, science is the right track for you.