The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Yixian Zheng was born and raised in Chongqing, the Sichuan province of China, the elder (by about nine years) of the family's two daughters. Both of her parents were professors at Chongqing University—her mother in metallurgy and her father in mechanical engineering—her extended family members were, predominantly, farmers and other tradesmen. She went to elementary school on the campus of Chongqing University with dreams of becoming a writer like her father had been before settling into engineering. The end of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s brought about a radical change in Zheng's education as there was much competition to get into college; ultimately she decided to pursue science and technology instead of writing as a career path. She entered Sichuan University in Chengdu intent on studying biology, which, at the time, had more of a relationship, in her mind, to forestry and being outdoors. While there, Zheng was very active in extracurricular activities and became interested in cell biology after taking a course with an influential professor, Wenshi Pan. When she had not made a decision on her plans after graduation, Zheng went to work for Southwestern Agricultural University in Chongqing as an instructor for two years. Upon encouragement from her father, who, at the time, was a visiting professor in the United States at the University of Akron in Ohio, Zheng took the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and then applied for admission to Ohio State University's graduate program. After being accepted, she worked in Berl R. Oakley's laboratory and determined that science was her calling; her graduate thesis focused on gamma tubulin and centrosome function. Zheng completed her doctorate and took a postdoctoral position in Bruce Alberts's laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, where she continued research on centrosome function and purification of the gamma tubulin complex. Zheng and her husband, Max Q. B. Guo, who was also a scientist, then had to deal with the two-body problem; Zheng accepted a position at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Baltimore, Maryland and her husband came along to finish his postdoctoral research. At the Carnegie Institute, her research on microtubules led to a collaboration with Douglas E. Koshland. At the end of the interview, Zheng speaks about her greatest strengths in research; the manner in which she sets research priorities; and her future research. Additionally, she discusses issues such as competition in science, generating new research ideas, and the qualities of a good science. Both technology and the choice of her model system have influenced her research, and Zheng explores both factors at length. She also talks about other aspects of being a principal investigator, including her research process, tenure, grants, teaching, and balancing family with career. Lastly, Zheng discusses the impact the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences has had on her work.
|1992||Ohio State University||PhD||Molecular Genetics|
University of California, San Francisco
Southwestern Agricultural University
Johns Hopkins University
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
|1997 to 2001||
Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant
|1997 to 2006||
NIH R01 Research Grants (Awarded by NIGMS)
Women in Cell Biology Award, the American Society for Cell Biology
HHMI Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institution
Table of Contents
Family background. Parents. Sister. Interest in writing. Schooling inChongqing, China. Religion. The Cultural Revolution in China. Collegeentrance examination in China.
Decision to pursue science rather than writing. Biology at Sichuan University in Chengdu. Instructor at Southwestern Agricultural University. Ohio State University for graduate school. Berl R. Oakley. Columbus, Ohio. Meets her future husband. Doctoral research on gamma tubulin and centrosome function. Oakley's mentoring style. Graduate school in the United States. Her husband.
Bruce Alberts laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. Work on centrosome assembly and purification of the gamma tubulin complex. Accepts a position at Carnegie Institution of Washington. Research on microtubules: structural organization of the gamma tubulin complex, regulation of its centrosome-binding activity, and spindle assembly and disassembly during mitosis. Collaboration with Douglas E. Koshland. Generating new research ideas. Mentoring style.
The importance of model systems. Funding history. Tenure at Carnegie Institution of Washington. Laboratory management style. The peer review system in the grant-funding process. Teaching responsibilities. Balancing family and career. Gender issues in science. Ethical questions in science. Practical applications of research. Impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the BiomedicalSciences grant.