Why did you become a scientist?
Biology has always been my favourite subject. I vividly recall the thrill I felt when I first encountered the Human Genome Project on a blackboard poster in high school. But my educational path took an unexpected turn, leading me to study Chinese traditional medicine for my undergraduate degree due to a failed college entry exam (yes, I almost became a pharmacist!). Yet, my unwavering passion for life sciences eventually guided me back to academia, where I pursued a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology.
How would you describe your work at a dinner party?
All cells within our body share the same DNA blueprint, but their distinct identities arise from differential gene expression, primarily governed by epigenetic regulation. Dysregulation of epigenetic processes can result in human diseases, such as cancer. My current focus is unraveling how epigenetic mechanisms control gene expression in both normal and cancer cells, with the aim of identifying new therapeutic targets to enhance cancer treatments.
Name one tool you can’t do without.
CRISPR is the most powerful and essential tool that I use as it enables precise modifications to DNA/RNA sequences, facilitating the study of gene function and disease modelling.
Which unresolved question would you most like to answer?
There are many! Currently, I’m focused on unravelling the mechanisms behind the establishment and maintenance of gene repression at the molecular level. My goal is to contribute to the identification of critical epigenetic changes in specific cancer types, ultimately facilitating the development of more targeted & less toxic epigenetic therapies.
What has been a highlight of your research career to date?
In recent years, my research has been centred on the mechanistic studies of the intricate histone-modifying complex known as PRC2. These works have led to a series of significant discoveries to understand how this essential epigenetic machinery is regulated by different cofactors.
What advice would you give early-career researchers in the current climate?
Research is a demanding job. It involves not only dedicating sufficient time to produce data in the lab, but also attending conferences and participating in networking events. But equally important is remembering to take regular breaks and allocating time to relax and recharge – this will help get you through the inevitable unsuccessful experiments and grant applications that are part of being a researcher.