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Faculty Focus: Ziying Yan, PhD

Date: Friday, January 17, 2020

Ziying YanWhat is your hometown?

Guangzhou, China

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

My high school biology teacher inspired my interest in viruses. In that class, I learned that scientists could use a virus to kill destructive inserts. I was fascinated by the fact that a harmful virus could be turned into a useful tool beneficial to human beings. Now, I am doing a similar thing, engineering a virus to be a gene delivery agent for gene therapy.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

I first arrived at the University of Iowa for my postdoctoral training in 1998. I continued to work here as a research scientist from 2000 to 2014. In 2015, I was appointed as a research associate professor.

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

Upon arriving in Iowa City, I was attracted by this small peaceful college town and the friendly people here. The University of Iowa has renowned research teams for gene therapy and cystic fibrosis. This collaborative environment has supported my career development.

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

I am lucky to have two terrific mentors who've helped me along the way. Dr. Yun-De Hou, my PhD mentor, helped me build confidence and guided me to research on using viral vectors for gene therapy. Dr. John F. Engelhardt has been my mentor since I arrived in Iowa. He not only gives me opportunities to grow my research career, but also is a role model for me with his hard work, passion and dedication to scientific research.

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

My research interests focus on the developments of efficient gene transfer agents to human airways and also animal models for human diseases, which will be beneficial to gene therapies for cystic fibrosis and other pulmonary diseases.

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

Bioinformation science and innovative technologies in molecular biology, such as PCR, Next-Generation Sequencing, and CRISPR/Cas9 etc. have greatly changed biomedicine.

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

Don’t settle for a job you’re not passionate about.

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

I’ve shared my research at different scientific meetings, such as the Annual Meeting of American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and the Annual North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference. 

What are some of your outside (personal) interests?

I enjoy cooking Cantonese dishes and I also like reading, particularly historical fiction books

Learn more about Ziying Yan, PhD