New faculty alert! DLS is excited to welcome Dr. Yang Lyu, who is joining the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in September 2022. She comes to us from the University of Michigan.
Tell me about yourself.
I was born and raised in Wuhan, a busy port city famous for its history and cuisine in Central China. I moved to Beijing for college and then went south to Guangzhou for graduate school. To see the bigger world, I came to the US after earning my PhD, and I joined the laboratory of Scott Pletcher at the University of Michigan to study the neuronal modulation of aging. My dream of conducting research in a lab of my own came true this April when I happily accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers.
How did you become interested in science?
I was attracted to nature since I was a kid. My friends and I would tirelessly catch butterflies, cicadas, and crawfish for the entire summer. One of my favorite things to do as a child was making plant and rock specimens with my mom. Although I was not ready to commit to science until much later, I immediately realized that I wanted to be a biologist after learning about genetics and the central dogma in my first year of high school. Soon I joined the Biology Olympiad team at my school, and I was quite happy to have plenty of time to read the college textbooks on molecular biology and genetics. For a long time, reading those books was the sole focus and a major source of pleasure in my life.
As a student, how did you do undergraduate research?
As an undergraduate at Beijing Normal University, I became interested in programming, mathematics, and computational modeling. I was eager to start research projects using computational methods. Big data analysis is a common practice in biomedical research nowadays, but back then when I was in college, computational biology was still a very new area. Think about that: scientists just got the first draft of the human genome in 2000. The instructor of our C programming class was working in a bioinformatics lab. She asked her mentor to give a lecture about how to solve biological questions by writing programs. I got so excited by the lecture that I immediately wrote an email to her mentor and asked to do research with him. As a rising sophomore, I was fortunate to have a desk, a computer, a bunch of programming books, and a few scientific journals to work with. Most importantly, I had a lot of free time to read and find my own project over the next two years. I still greatly appreciate the support and intellectual freedom that my first academic mentor gave me, and I am ready to pass that on to my future trainees and students.
What are you researching?
I am interested in the manifestations of aging at the systems level, with a particular focus on how the brain modulates longevity and health. Using the fruit fly as a model system, we study the molecular activities that maintain (or impair) the healthy state of animals throughout their lives, and how these biological processes are influenced by environmental conditions (e.g. food) and social opportunities (e.g. mates). Our work aims to provide conceptual and mechanistic insights into contemporary challenges to human health.
What are you excited about in joining Rutgers University?
I was impressed by the diverse student body when I was interviewing at Rutgers, and I am super excited to become part of this community. My goal is to foster a creative, collaborative, and inclusive environment in my own laboratory, in the classroom, and on campus. I feel very hopeful to achieve this goal at Rutgers.
I am also very excited to join the incredible research faculty in the department of molecular biology and biochemistry. I feel immensely fortunate to start my own lab and research program here. I look forward to the interactions with many great researchers in the field of aging biology, neurogenetics, biochemistry, and computational biology in and outside of our department
Fun fact! Outside of my research, I spend a lot of time climbing rocks and mountains. I always joke with my friends that if I failed in academia, I would resort to becoming a mountain guide. Climbing mountains feels very much like doing science to some extent: you begin by setting up an ambitious goal, make concrete plans, spend time training to meet your goals, and encounter many unexpected obstacles on your way up. At some point, you just don’t know where to go, but once you are at the top and see something that you have never seen before, that feeling triumphs over everything. You are so captivated by that feeling that you just want to repeat the loop again. I feel extremely fortunate to have both research and climbing guide me through my life, and I cannot wait to start my new adventures on the east coast.