This new series introduces the public and fellow researchers to our talented scientists. We interview different IGI members to find out who they are and what makes them passionate about science.
Dr. Zheng Hu was awarded the IGI Postdoctoral Fellowship in May 2016, and works in Christina Curtis’s lab at Stanford University. He hopes that his work in cancer genomics will explain why individual cancers respond to treatment differently, and ultimately guide the design of personalized cancer therapies.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the Hubei Province of central China. It’s funny – my path to Stanford has involved moving farther and farther away from home by powers of 10: my high school was about 10 miles away from home, I went to college in Wuhan City (100 miles away from my hometown), I went to graduate school at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing (about 1,000 miles away), and now I’m at Stanford (nearly 10,000 miles away). Next, I’ll have to start a lab on the moon!
Why did you become a scientist?
Research is definitely my passion, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact experience, person, or thing that inspired me to become a scientist. I’ll share one particularly poignant moment.
When I was an undergraduate student, I applied for a summer intern position in a molecular genetics lab at my university. My job was to screen for gene alterations that may cause familial hypodontia, a disease marked by abnormal tooth and jaw development. To collect DNA samples, my project partner and I rode a bus for 3 hours to reach a small, remote village. There, we visited a large family with many members who suffered from hypodontia. I still remember an older family member asking me, “Are you able to cure this disease? I don’t care what I look like, but I really feel sorry for my granddaughter. This disease may ruin her whole life.”
I was deeply touched by his words. That summer, we worked very hard and discovered several candidate genes that may be responsible for familial hypodontia. Although we are still a long way off from a cure, this experience showed me how fun and meaningful science can be.
What do you like to do besides research?
I like hiking, traveling, pop music, and cooking.
Tell us about someone who inspires you.
My mother has always inspired me. She is so tough, altruistic, optimistic, and open-minded. She has true character and always makes us feel happy and comfortable no matter how tough and unhappy life may be. She worked several jobs at the same time when my sister and I were in college but she loved them and did them very well. She is a hero to me.
Tell us one item from your “bucket list.”
I want to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Anything else you want to tell the world?
Science is fun and can make the world a better place.