Xiaoyun, congratulations on winning the Odile Bain Memorial Prize in 2015. It is thoroughly deserved. How do you feel?
I feel greatly honoured to win the 2015 Odile Bain Memorial prize. As a representative of young parasitologists and vector biologists, I am truly encouraged by this prestigious award and I believe this award will enable us to commemorate Odile Bain’s contributions in our field.
You won the award for your contribution to parasitological research so far. Could you tell us about your research career to date?
I earned my Ph.D. degree in China in 2012 and came to USA afterwards. My career plan is to pursue scientific research on infectious diseases including food-borne and vector-borne parasitic, bacterial and viral infections.
What factors have influenced your career?
There are many factors that have shaped my career, such as my interest in infectious diseases, my medical education and my research experience in my early career.
And what are you currently working on?
I am currently working as a research associate in Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The University of Chicago. My postdoctoral training projects focus on RNA biology in human diseases using next generation sequencing technology.
How do you see your career evolving in the next ten years?
My long career goal is to become an independent principal investigator. After my postdoctoral training, I will build my own laboratory to conduct scientific research on infectious diseases using my knowledge and skills. I will continue to address many biological questions underlying pathogen infection using advanced technologies.
You have worked both in China and the United States. Is there a difference in the research focus and climate between these two countries? And if so, could you explain what these are?
China has much more people than the United States, so it is more important to develop strategies to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases.
Yes, there are some differences between the two countries. For instance, parasitic and vector diseases are more epidemic in China than the United States. Many laboratories in the United States are doing research on bacterial and viral infections. China has much more people than the United States, so it is more important to develop strategies to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases, while research in the United States focus on the pathogenic mechanism of bacterial and viral diseases.
What are the similarities between working in China and the United States?
Along with the development of economy and life condition, research to improve human health in both countries have been paid much attention; food-borne and vector-borne infectious diseases are considered very important agents in governmental funding support.
What do you see as the future challenges for parasitology and vector biology?
Parasitic and vector diseases remain a great threat to public health, much work needs to be done to prevent and treat parasitic and vector diseases. There are many challenges for parasitology and vector biology field, the most important challenge is to develop new vaccines and therapeutic drugs which can prevent the resistance of infectious pathogens.
There are many questions to be answered by parasitologists and vector biologists. Understanding of basic biology of a pathogen and mastering solid comprehensive knowledge (e.g., immunology, biochemistry, etc) are important to develop strategies to prevent the infection. High throughput technologies in omics should be fully employed in the study of infectious diseases.