Jae Choi ’02 resides with her family in Orange County. She received her bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in biology and society. After graduating, she went on to earn her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and complete her residency in periodontics from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Now a board-certified periodontist, Jae is highly regarded in her field, and was awarded the Robert L. Merin Leadership Award by the California Society of Periodontists.
Jae has maintained her connection to her alma mater over the years through various clubs and associations including the Cornell Club of Los Angeles and the Cornell Alumni Association of Orange County, recently joining the CAAOC board. Since 2010, she has been a member of Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN), and currently serves as a chair. In 2019, Jae established the Choi Family Scholarship providing support to undergraduate students at Cornell.
Do you have a favorite Cornell memory?
I was looking forward to attending a Jane Goodall lecture in 2000, but before I knew it, the tickets had gone like hotcakes. I found my way into Bailey Hall by volunteering as an usher. I could care less that I was standing the entire time. It was amazing!
A Cornell memory that puts a smile on your face?
Biking down Tower Road on my way to the Veterinary Medical Center for research and stopping by the Dairy Bar for ice cream almost every single time.
What makes you feel most connected to Cornell while living in Southern California?
It’s not every day that you come across a fellow Cornellian on the West Coast. Being a part of the Cornell Alumni Association of Orange County helps me regularly connect with a diverse group of people that share a common history and bond. CAAOC is revving up to full gear post-pandemic, hosting one to two events every month. I’ve found that joining my local club is a great way to meet new people and make lifelong friends. There’s an instant connection when you meet another West-Coaster who also shares in the Cornell/Ithaca experience.
Do you have a favorite place on campus?
People who know me will say I’m always on the move. I used to love walking through Willard Straight because it was the campus hub and embodied college life at its fullest. Students were always bustling in and out; flyers were handed out—many memories were made at the Straight.
Is there a Cornell program or initiative that is near and dear to your heart, and why?
Undergraduate research thrives at Cornell. Students of all disciplines are encouraged to pursue projects and initiatives they find interesting and meaningful even at the onset of their college journey. With each of the colleges and schools offering research opportunities, there is an unmatched breadth and depth of work taking place on campus.
Did anyone at Cornell have a positive influence on your life?
My research professor, Dr. H. Alex Brown, took me in as a fledgling freshman with zero experience and invested his time in my growth as a scientist. He was a prolific author, publishing over 150 peer-reviewed research articles throughout his career, but he was never too busy for his students. He instilled a love of the exploration of the scientific process and inspired me to publish papers on cleft palate and stem cell research in my post-graduate years. Sadly, Dr. Brown lost his battle to cancer in 2017, but his legacy lives on through his work, colleagues, and those he mentored.
What motivates your philanthropy?
Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that you’ve given back to the place that gave you your start into adulthood. While waiting for the “right time” to start giving, I realized there would probably never be a perfect time. I only regret not having started sooner.
If you could go back in time, is there anything you’d change about your time at Cornell?
I would never have given away my Bob Dylan at Barton Hall concert ticket to cram for a biology exam!