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Faculty Focus: Kin Fai Au

Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kin Fai AuWhat is your hometown?

Guangdong, China

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine?

When I was about 10, I read a series of popular science books about math, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, geography, meteorology, etc … These books inspired my interest in science.  In 1990’s, I heard about Human Genome Project, which was a milestone of science, biology and medicine. It showed the amazing fact of life: we are all encoded by four “letters”. I decided to play around these “simple letters” to study the complexity of life sciences.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

December 2013

How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

I love the friendly and warm atmosphere in this prestigious college.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

My Ph.D. supervisor Dr. David I. Stuart at Oxford and my postdoc supervisor Dr. Wing H. Wong at Stanford set great examples of scientists for me. I appreciate their mentorship.

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

Modern biological experiments, such as high-throughput sequencing, have been generating huge amount of data. They are very informative but most of them cannot provide the biological insights directly. My role and my goal are to discover the biological information from big data. In particular, I lead my team to develop new analytic methods for latest biomedical techniques so that we can explore their possible applications to find the unknown.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Many high-throughput and efficient biological techniques were developed:  high-throughput sequencing, cryo-electron microscopy for protein structure, CRISPR/Cas9, etc … These new techniques have not only led to many awesome biomedical discoveries, they also changed our research styles/philosophy/strategies.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Keep your original enthusiasm and curiosity of science

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University

(i.e. population based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/ expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagement off campus, etc.)?

I like to share my research and the results with the research community. In addition to publications, seminars is another way for me to interact with the other researchers outside UI. For example, in 2015 I gave 19 presentations outside UI to share our research of the Third Generation Sequencing data analysis.

What are some of your outside (personal) interests?

I like basketball. I play the power forward position. I also like history, in particular the history of the Three Kingdoms period in China.

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