Virginia Polytechnic Institute
and State University
Q: What initially attracted you to biophysics?
I was fascinated by the full complexity, variability, and programmability of biological systems. I believe right now we are witnessing an important transition in the way we study biology. A great many disciplines have joined in from different angles. Biophysics is one of them. Indeed, a lot of biological problems, no matter how complex, have simple physical pictures and are therefore “solvable” under a great many methods of biophysics.
Q: What specific areas are you studying?
My areas cover computational biology and bioinformatics. I’m specifically interested in phenotypic transition of cells.
Q: What is your current research project?
Currently, I’m working on building computational models that reveal the network topological and dynamical features of innate immune cells.
Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?
I hope to enter into academia after graduation. The freedom of doing interesting research is always a pleasure of life.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge as a student of biophysics?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing a student of biophysics is to prepare an interdisciplinary background of knowledge and to learn to collaborate with people from other fields. For example, my first project was based on the analogy between cell phenotypic transitions and thermally activated barrier crossing events, for which I had to learn computational biology and physics. The choice of the work as a featured paper by Physical Biology gives me confidence in my studies.
Q: Why did you join the Biophysical Society?
Biophysical Society provides a great platform of communication and collaboration of people from different fields. By joining the Biophysical Society, I can learn more and get to know more people in the field.
Q: When you’re not studying biophysics, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like sports, oil painting, and reading novels. These extracurricular activities help me get relaxed and sometimes open my mind for more research ideas!
Jianhua Xing, Fu’s PI, says:
“Yan helped me answering a question I have been thinking for a while: what is the most important factor for a successful graduate career? When Yan joined our program, she had little background in physics or biology, and was very naïve about research. Actually I had to teach her from the very basics. However, Yan has one thing uncommon here: strong passion for doing research. The passion allows her to work very hard, actively learn new things, and constantly think about her projects. Given sufficient advice and patience, she always generates beautiful results. Now Yan is one of the most productive students here, and is finishing her first and important step towards her dream career as a scientist.”
February 2012 Table of Contents