Fenyong Liu

Born: December 31, 1969 | Guangzhou, CN

Fenyong Liu was born in Guangzhou, China. Early on he knew he wanted to pursue science. He attended the prestigious University of Science and Technology of China. Encouraged by his professors, Liu attended graduate school in the United States at University of Chicago. While his initial research focused on the biochemistry of viral DNA replication, Liu focused in the last years of his doctoral study on the genetics of the herpes virus capsid protein, which resulted in a patent and created intense interest from the pharmaceutical industry. He followed up his graduate research with postdoctoral positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute and Yale University, where he worked with Sidney Altman on the inhibition of antiviral gene expression. His current research has focused on cytomegalovirus infection. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0602
No. of pages: 88
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Robin Mejia
1-3 November 2005
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California

Abstract of Interview

Fenyong Liu was born and raised in Guangzhou, China during the Cultural Revolution. Early on in life he knew that he wanted to pursue science as his career, learning English during junior high school and having influential teachers while attending high school in Guangzhou. After passing the university entrance examinations, Liu matriculated at the prestigious University of Science and Technology of China. Initially he decided to pursue physics, but then transferred to the biology program after two years of study. Encouraged by his professors, Liu decided to attend graduate school in the United States at the University of Chicago, briefly spending time in the Medical School before transferring into the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, where he worked with Richard Roller and Bernard Roizman. While his initial research focused on the biochemistry of viral DNA replication, Liu focused in the last years of his doctoral study on the genetics of the herpes virus capsid protein; his research resulted in a patent and created intense interest from the pharmaceutical industry. He followed up his graduate research with postdoctoral positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute and Yale University, where he worked with Sidney Altman on the inhibition of antiviral gene expression. Liu discusses his wife (also a scientist) and family as well as balancing family commitments and career, especially during the period when he became a principal investigator at University of California, Berkeley. His current research in molecular biology and virology has focused on cytomegalovirus infection; during the interview he describes his typical workday and both his laboratory management style as well as the multiple roles he plays as a principal investigator. The interview concludes with Liu's reflections on his various scientific mentors and on his wife's career trajectory and the difficulties of being a woman in science. Liu concludes his interview by reflecting on his various scientific mentors. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 University of Science and Technology of China BS Biology
1989 University of Chicago MS Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
1992 University of Chicago PhD Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Professional Experience

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company

1992
Visiting Scientist for Postdoctoral Internship, Department of Virology

Yale University

1992 to 1995
Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Sidney Altman, Department of Biology

University of California, Berkeley

1996 to 2001
Assistant Professor, School of Public Health
2001 to 2005
Associate Professor, School of Public Health
2005 to 2006
Professor, School of Public Health
2006 to 2007
Professor and Chair, Program in Comparative Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986

University Fellowship, Chicago Medical School

1987

University of Chicago Fellowship, University of Chicago 

1993

Parke-Davis Postdoctoral Fellowship of Life Sciences Research Foundation 

1997

Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award, March of Dimes National Birth Defects Foundation 

1997

Liu Tianhong Foundation Memorial Visiting Professorship, College of Life Sciences, Hsing Hua University, Beijing, P.R. China

1997

Regent's Junior Faculty Fellowship (University of California)

1998

Hellman Family Faculty Award, University of California at Berkeley

1998 to 2002

Pew Scholar of Biomedical Sciences 

2001

Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association 

2001

Scholar of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America 

Table of Contents

Growing Up in China
1

Family background. Early schooling during the Chinese Cultural Revolution Childhood interests and experiences. Decision to pursue science as a career. Entrance to high school in Guangzhou, China. Learning English in junior high school.

Entering College and Graduate School in the United States
13

Brother. Influential high-school teacher. Attends the University of Science and Technology of China. University entrance examination in China. College experiences. Transfer from physics to biology courses. Influential college teachers. Admission to graduate school. Attends Chicago Medical School. Works for Kwang-Poo ChangMeets future wife. Transition to graduate school. Transfers into Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Influential professors. Meets and works for Bernard Roizman. Work with Richard Roller on the biochemistry of viral DNA replication. Graduate program at University of Chicago. Richard Roller's mentorship. Bernard Roizman's mentoring style. Doctoral research on the genetics of the herpes virus capsid protein. Wife's career. Decision to do a postdoctoral fellowship with Sidney Altman at Yale University.

Postdoctoral Years and Becoming Faculty
46

Postdoctoral research in Sidney Altman's laboratory on inhibition of antiviral gene expression. Writing journal articles. More on Bernard Roizman's mentoring style. Reasons for becoming a principal investigator. Current research in the biology of viral infection. Altman's mentoring style. Balancing family and career. Accepts a position at University of California, Berkeley. Wife and daughter. Grant-writing process. Setting up laboratory.

Current Research and the Scientific Life
60

Current research in molecular biology and virology on cytomegalovirus infection. Laboratory management style. Administrative duties. Typical workday. Role in the lab. Conducting scientific research. Future research plans. Practicalapplications of his research. Wife's career trajectory. Gender. Tenure at University of California, Berkeley. Scientific mentors.

Index
85

About the Interviewer

Robin Mejia