Yue Xiong

Born: June 5, 1958 | Nanchang, CN
Photograph of Yue Xiong

Yue Xiong was born in Nanchang. His father was a scholar sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution, and his mother struggled to support the family. After high school Xiong worked on the farm where his family lived. When the Cultural Revolution ended, Xiong attended Fudan University. James Watson's book on the molecular biology of the gene inspired him. Interested in the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program, Xiong learned English and went to the University of Rochester, where he entered Thomas Eickbush's laboratory researching DNA sequencing and transposable elements of the chorea gene. Xiong helped develop the mild-extracting method for isolating linealized and supercoiled DNA. He is now at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, looking at cell-cycle control and tumor suppression.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0586
No. of pages: 187
Minutes: 458

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
9-11 October 2000
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Abstract of Interview

Yue Xiong was born in Nanchang, in Jiang Xi province, in the southern part of China, the eldest of three siblings (he has two younger sisters). His father was a forestry scholar who was sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution. His mother learned some accounting work from an uncle, and she supported Xiong and her mother-in-law for several years while her husband was gone, all the while suffering with the effects of nutritional deficiency. When Xiong's father was finally allowed to return to his family, he was assigned to Nanhu, where Xiong lived until he left for college. After he finished high school Xiong worked on the farm where his family lived and taught elementary and junior high school. When the Cultural Revolution ended and the colleges reopened Xiong was able to take the entrance exam and finally to attend college. He matriculated at Fudan University, which impacted both his farm and his community, pursuing a broad education until deciding to become a scientist. Xiong entered graduate school in the lab of San-Chiun Shen, at which time he found molecular biology in China to be out of sync with the performance of science elsewhere. Nevertheless, he had a keen interest in learning modern molecular genetics, and James Watson's book on the molecular biology of the gene had a great impact on him; he worked with David Ow on a nitrogen-fixation gene. Interested in the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program (CUSBEA), Xiong spent time at the Guangzhou English Learning Center (GELC). Subsequently, Xiong's CUSBEA application to the University of Rochester was accepted, and on Dr. Shen's advice he went there. Transitioning to American culture took time, but he soon entered Thomas Eickbush's laboratory researching DNA sequencing and transposable elements of the chorea gene. Xiong helped develop the mild-extracting method for isolating linealized and supercoiled DNA and he also worked on the evolution of transposable elements and the analysis of reverse transcriptase. He considered several postdoctoral positions, including one with Harold Varmus, though finally decided to accept an offer in David Beach's lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. He participated in a genetic approach to isolate G1 cyclinin mammalian cells; helped discover cyclin gene activation during the G1 phase; and studied the effect of p21 and CDKon cyclin. From Cold Spring Harbor he accepted a position at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looking at cell-cycle control and tumor suppression. At the end of the interview, Xiong talks about the possible applications of his research; the future path of his research; his lack of bench time; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award; the impact and importance of technology on Xiong's work; and collaboration and competition in science. Xiong concludes his interview by explaining how he attempts to balance career and family responsibilities (his parents are still in China).

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1982 Fudan University BS Biology
1984 Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology MS
1989 University of Rochester PhD Biology

Professional Experience

University of Rochester

1989 to 1990
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biology

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

1990 to 1993
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

1993 to 1999
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
1993
Member, Program in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
1999
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1995

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1999

1999 United States Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Career Development Award

1999

UNC Hettleman Award for Scholarly Achievement

Table of Contents

Childhood in China
1

Nanchang. Father's arrest by the government. Effect of the Chinese Civil War. Family background. Early memories. Mother's nutritional deficiency. Nanhu Peaceful interlude between two social upheavals. First memories of school. Early childhood interests and influences. Books. Parental expectations. Childhood aspirations. Chinese communist propaganda regarding the United States. Chinese Cultural Revolution. Family's dissolution and removal to the Countryside. Education in middle school.

Changes in China and Access to Higher Education
38

Attending high school. Deng Xiaoping's early reforms in China. Influential Teachers. Excitement for learning. Teaches and farms for four years. Lack of books in Nanhu and keen desire to obtain them. Death of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. China's slow establishment of friendly relations with other Western countries. Takes an exam to enter college. Writes a letter to Deng Xiaoping protesting his exclusion from university. Chinese government's attempt to make reparations. Admission to Fudan University. Coursework. Experiences at the university. Attempt to gain a broad education. Influential teacher. State of molecular genetics teaching when a student.

Graduate School and Moving to the United States
74

San-Chiun Shen. State of molecular biology in China. Keen interest in learning modern molecular genetics. James D. Watson's book on the molecular biology of the gene. Chinese Academy of Science. Formation of the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program. Time at the Guangzhou English Learning Center. David Ow. Work with Ow on a nitrogen-fixation gene. First impressions of the United States. First impressions of Rochester, new York. Rotations and coursework at the University of Rochester. Thomas H. Eickbush DNA sequencing. Transposable elements of the chorea Gene. Helps develop the mild-extracting method for isolating linealized and supercoiled DNA. Other projects on the evolution of transposable elements and the analysis of reverse transcriptase. Tiananmen Square. Considers a postdoc with Harold Varmus.

Postdoctoral and Faculty Years
109

Considers several postdoc positions. Accepts a position in the David H. Beach lab at Cold SpringHarbor. First experiment. Participates in a genetic approach to isolate G1 cyclin in mammalian cells. Helps discover cyclin gene activation during the G1 phase. Studies the effect of p21 and CDK on cyclin. Accepting a position at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Startup package. Training his first graduate students. Current research on cell-cycle control and tumor suppression. Possible applications of research. Lack of bench time. PewScholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Technology. Collaboration. Competition. Rapidly published research findings. Teaching duties.

Scientific Career and Reflections on Science
139

Lab management style. Article-writing process. Professional activities. Grant writing. Tenure review process. Balancing career and family. His daughter. Daughter's perception of his research. Staying close to his parents in China. Funding. National Institutes of Health funding process. Privatization of biomedical research. Patents. Typical workday. Travel. Importance of his family.

Index
187

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten