Shi Huang

Born: October 26, 1961 | Dalian, CN
Photograph of Shi Huang

Shi Huang was born in Dalian, China, during the Cultural Revolution. He remembers school being easy, and focused on memorizing political tracts, marching, and working in the fields. He went to Shanghai for college, where he studied genetic engineering and was selected to participate in the China-US Biochemistry Examination and Application program, a joint program between China and American professors. Huang studied English at the Guangzhou English Language Center, then joined John W. B. Hershey's laboratory at University of California, Davis; there he used a gel electrophoresis assay to study RNA protein interactions. After a postdoc at University of California, San Diego joined the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California, where he continues his work on RIZ as a tumor suppressor gene.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0492
No. of pages: 90
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
19-21 January 2000
Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California

Abstract of Interview

Shi Huang was born in Dalian, in the north of China. His mother was a doctor assigned to a military base there, but his father, also a doctor, had been assigned to another base in Beijing. Because this was during the Cultural Revolution, Huang's parents were assigned from time to time to other locations, to "serve the peasants." Huang was sent during those times to his grandparents' house in Wuhan, once when he was about six for a year or so; and his younger brother was sent to relatives in Shanghai. This practice was common at the time in China. When he was seven or eight Huang and his mother moved to Beijing to be with Huang's father. Huang's mother found a job in a hospital nearby, and Huang's father was a microbiologist on the military base. Life in the compound, according to Huang, contained most things people needed, so except for school he seldom ventured outside the walls. In school he did well, being attracted to painting, mathematics, and ping pong. He remembers school as being a school mostly for peasants, so not difficult; he had to learn a lot of political tracts, how to march, and how to work in the fields. He finished his school in Beijing and then went to Shanghai for college. He would have preferred the art academy, but he failed its entrance exam and decided to study genetic engineering instead. The Chinese recognized that at time the United States was superior in science, and many university students wanted to attend American or European graduate schools. He did well on his exam for the graduate program and was selected to participate in the CUSBEA (China-US Biochemistry Examination and Application) program. This was a joint program between China and US professors. Huang studied English for a year at the Guangzhou English Language Center, where he also learned something of American culture and prepared to apply to US graduate schools. He joined John W. B. Hershey's laboratory at the University of California at Davis; there he used a gel electrophoresis assay to study RNA protein interactions. He met his wife, Chen Ruo Ping, who had come to the US on the CUSBEA program as well. She works for a start-up pharmaceutical company, and the Huangs have two children. Huang accepted a postdoc in the Wen-Hwa Lee laboratory at University of California at San Diego, where he initiated a project to express the Rb protein in bacteria. From there he was invited to join the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California, where he continues his work on RIZ as a tumor suppressor gene and of course continues the scientist's continual search for funding.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1983 Fudan University BS
1988 University of California, Davis PhD

Professional Experience

University of California, San Diego

1989 to 1992
Department of Pathology and Department of Medicine, Postdoctoral Fellow

Burnham Institute

1992 to 1998
Assistant Professor
1998
Associate Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1993 to 1997

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Huang's early years in Beijing and Wuhan. His father's career in microbiology. Early schooling during the Cultural Revolution. Growing up in a military compound. Chinese educational system. Huang's extracurricular interests. Early aptitude for mathematics. Interest in ping pong. Decision to pursue science.

University Years
21

Attends Fudan University in Shanghai. Wants to study in the United States. Studies English at the Guangzhou English Language Center.

Graduate School in the United States
31

Joins John W. B. Hershey laboratory at University of California, at Davis, where he uses a gel electrophoresis assay to study RNA protein interactions. Meets his future wife, Chen Ruo Ping. Accepts a postdoc in the Wen-Hwa Lee laboratory at University of California, San Diego. Initiates a project to express the Rb proteinin bacteria. Joins the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California.

Life as a Scientist
47

Huang's personal philosophy of life and capacity for hard work. His wife's educationand career. Division of household tasks. His leisure activities. His work on E2F, Rb, and RIZ. Establishes that RIZ is a tumor suppressor gene--Decision to conductresearch in an area in which there is little competition. The desire for recognition asa motive for scientific research. Funding difficulties. Writing articles for scientificjournals. Working at a private rather than a public institution. A typical workdaymanaging a laboratory. Racial composition of the staff at Burnham Institute. Competition in science. Huang's laboratory's contribution to understanding cancerand possible applications of his research. Future plans. Differences betweenAmerican and Chinese definitions of success and Huang's personal philosophyof success.

Index
89

About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen