Cheng-Ming Chiang

Born: September 2, 1961 | Taipei, TW
Photograph of Cheng-Ming Chiang

Cheng-Ming Chiang was born and raised in Taiwan. For undergrad, he joined what he considered the best department at National Taiwan University, Agricultural Chemistry. There, he learned biochemical and cell biological techniques in labs, including column chromatography, sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and mammalian cell culture. After his military service, he spent one year as a lab technician studying human papillomavirus. When he matriculated at University of Rochester, he continued this research, specifically performing molecular biology mapping through RNA splicing of variants by retrovirus-mediated gene transfer in human papillomavirus type 11. His thesis won the best thesis award for the entire medical school. He is now at Case Western Reserve University, researching the biochemical aspects of human papillomavirus gene regulation. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0460
No. of pages: 107
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
1-3 April 2003
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, Ohio

Abstract of Interview

Cheng-Ming Chiang was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, the second youngest of four siblings, and the first to attend college. Chiang was raised by his mother who worked as a taxi driver in Taiwan for over twenty years. With two older siblings in high school and a full-time, working mother, Chiang devoted his time at home to his studies and minding his younger brother. He went through the Taiwanese educational system without much consideration for his future career, though with an interest in science. He decided he wanted to go to college and took entrance exams with the intention of attending National Taiwan University. Uninterested in re-taking exams in order to enter a doctorate of medicine program, and considering his burgeoning interest in science, Chiang decided to become a student in what he considered to be the best department at National Taiwan University, the Department of Agricultural Chemistry. While an undergraduate he had the opportunity to learn biochemical and cell biological techniques in labs, including column chromatography, sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and mammalian cell culture; Chiang decided he wanted to become a scientist. Upon graduating Chiang began his two years of military service, during which time he started to prepare for a graduate education in the United States. After his stint in the military, and while applying to doctoral programs, he spent one year as a lab technician at National Taiwan University studying human papillomavirus. He matriculated at the University of Rochester in New York and continued research on human papillomavirus with Thomas R. Broker and Louise T. Chow, specifically performing molecular biology mapping through RNA splicing of variants by retrovirus-mediated gene transfer in human papillomavirus type 11, all the while adjusting to American culture. He finished his degree in just over three years, and his thesis not only won the best thesis award in the department of biochemistry, but also the best thesis award for the entire medical school. From Rochester Chiang went on to Rockefeller University for a postdoctoral fellowship with Robert G. Roeder to study protein biochemistry: purifying human transcription factor IID using retrovirus-mediated gene transfer and the FLAG-epitope tag; he and his wife were expecting the birth of their daughter shortly after the start of Chiang's position. After his fellowship he accepted a position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and then moved on to Case Western Reserve University, researching the biochemical aspects of human papillomavirus gene regulation. Throughout the interview Chiang compares his time and education in the United States to his time in Taiwan, also providing some historical perspectives on Taiwanese history as he lived it. The interview ends with a discussion of a wide variety of topics that include his laboratory and mentoring; racial discrimination in science; his wife's career and balancing family and career; training students in basic science; politics in publishing scientific papers; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in helping him establish his lab during its early years when funding was critical. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1984 National Taiwan University BS Agricultural Chemistry
1991 University of Rochester PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

University of Rochester

1991 to 1992
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry

The Rockefeller University

1992 to 1995
Postdoctoral Associate, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

1995 to 2000
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry
2000 to 2003
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1991

Walter Bloor Award, University of Rochester

1991

Wallace O. Fenn Award, University of Rochester

1993 to 1995

Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

1993 to 1995

Aaron Diamond Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

1996 to 2000

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1997 to 1999

Basil O'Conner Starter Award from the March of Dimes Birth Defect Foundation

2000 to 2004

Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation Scholar

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Parents. Siblings. Growing up in Taipei, Taiwan. Religion. Junior and senior high school years in Taipei. Educational system in Taiwan. Influential teachers. Interest in science during high school.

Undergraduate and Graduate Years
27

Department of Agricultural Chemistry at National Taiwan University. Undergraduate research in biochemistry and cell culture. Career in research. Parental expectations. Military service after attending college. Work on human papillomavirus as a research technician at National Taiwan University Hospital. Decides to attend graduate school in the United States. Thomas R. Broker and Louise T. Chow. University of Rochester. Doctoral research in molecularbiology mapping RNA splicing variants by retrovirus-mediated gene transfer in human papillomavirus type 11.

Postdoctoral and Faculty Years
36

Postdoctoral fellowship in Robert G. Roeder's laboratory at Rockefeller University. His wife. Birth of his daughter. Balancing family and career. Impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant on his work. Postdoctoral research in protein biochemistry purifying human transcription factor IID using retrovirus-mediated gene transfer and the FLAG-epitope tag. Competition and collaboration in science. His wife's career. Position at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Setting up his laboratory. Teaching responsibilities. The tenure process at the University of Illinois.

The Practice of Science and Final Thoughts
71

The process of writing journal articles. Current research on the biochemical aspects of human papillomavirus gene regulation. Move to Case Western Reserve University. Tenure at Case Western Reserve University. Broader applications of his work. Patents. Privatization of research. Ethnic issues in science. Trainingstudents in basic science. Politics in publishing scientific papers.

Index
104

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan