Hon Leong

Proof That Persistence Pays Off

Love science? Then ignore the haters, advises this professor. Stick with science... even if you'd rather be running a food stand.


Hon Leong is an Assistant Professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine. We asked him everything from what he likes most about being a scientist to what he is reading in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What do you like most about being a scientist?
I love the fact that I get to be creative and use those qualities to solve problems that impact not only patients but also the people I work with. Almost every day, I get to see how that creativity transforms the way experiments are being done and the look on my co-workers’ faces when they realize what has happened. It’s truly a joy and I honestly think that’s how many people in science learn, by having someone share their idea and creative approach to a problem, whether it be troubleshooting or generating new experimental strategies. Plus, I love it because I get to do this almost every day.

What advice would you give young researchers?
Don’t give up. There is just so much negativity in science right now – it’s really horrible. If you are actually good at science and get along with others and really understand the “ethos” of doing science – please don’t give up. There were so many times I almost gave up but somewhere in me there was the reserve to keep going and I just never looked back. I once remember a time when I was really down in the dumps due to work politics in the lab (they exist unfortunately) and over coffee, this other student was able to see past all of this zaniness and tell me that a year later I would be laughing about all of this.  He was absolutely right. If you have good hands and a zest for doing science, don’t give up.

What are you reading right now?
I’m trying to get back into music, actually. It’s something I lost a lot of time for, but now I realize how much I loved music. As I get older, I’m finding that these tastes are more conservative than what I used to appreciate during my “wilder times”.

The book that I’m currently trying to devour is Steak by Mark Schatzker – until Anthony Bourdain gets his new non-cookbook out.

What do you like to do for fun?
I love being with the people in my lab. It can be really annoying for others, because all we do is talk shop, which I love. I can’t stop talking about science and what others are doing. Usually it’s over a beer and nachos and loud music that brings out the annoying side of everyone. It’s probably too much fun sometimes.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I once thought I’d never make it and live off my wife – be a bar stool minstrel singing other people’s songs until I died. But if I could do any other profession, I guess it would be a owner of some niche food hawker stand in Singapore, if the hot weather wasn’t so oppressive.

Aside from things for your survival, what item would you most want to have with you on a deserted island?
A picture of my family, because having a smartphone with all the pics would be a mistake two days in on that deserted island.

Want to learn more about Prof. Leong’s work? Check out our blog post about his fluid biopsy for prostate cancer.