Competition: US & Canada
I am a scientist and educator at the University of Chicago. Over the past 24 years, I have been working in the field of evolutionary genetics, particularly focusing on a new and fundamental problem: how does a gene originate in an organism? My curiosity includes why genes are often functionally imperfect and how evolutionary new genes participate in the genetic control of developmental processes. I am fascinated by the genes that originated from scratch and how they comply with an insufficient translational machinery in a cell. I anticipate that the pursuit of these problems may bring out new paradigms.
I was born and grew up in a family from an ethnic minority group from the mountainous area of southwestern China, the Miao (also called Hmong). After receiving a college degree and MS degree at Sichuan Agricultural University, I won an opportunity to come to the United States in 1987 for doctorial education at University of California, Davis. Soon after completing doctoral thesis that led me to a new world of gene origination, I moved to Harvard in 1993 for postdoctoral research. I joined the UChicago faculty in 1997 and became inaugural Edna K. Papazian Distinguished Service Professor in 2011.