Interview with Professor Yimin Zou

We are delighted to announce that Professor Yimin Zou (University of California - San Diego, US) will chair our first conference in China, Frontiers of Cell Signaling in Shanghai on June 21-24, 2015.

We recently caught up with him to hear about his research and get his thoughts on this upcoming meeting.

About the Chairman

Professor Yimin Zou

Yimin Zou graduated from Shanghai Fudan University and was a CUSBEA (China and United States Biochemistry Examination and Application Program) student and received his Ph.D. from University of California, Davis and San Diego, in 1995.

He did his postdoctoral fellowship at University of California, San Francisco from 1996 to 2000 and was an Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of Chicago from 2000 to 2006.

He joined the UC San Diego faculty in July, 2006 and currently is the Chair of the Neurobiology Section at UCSD Biological Sciences Division. The Zou lab at UCSD studies the development, function and repair of neural circuits.

What sparked your passion for science?

Science is a part of human civilization so vital to mankind. It enlightens our mind, improves our lives and fights diseases. Science is an ongoing effort because we constantly need to improve our understanding of our world. To be part of scientific discovery is a privilege and an absolute joy.

Could you briefly tell us about your current research interests?

I am interested in how the neural circuit is assembled to give us a tremendous repertoire of behavior and abilities to understand and change our world and how to repair the nervous system once it is damaged by injury or degeneration.

In the last year, have there been any exciting developments in your lab?

Yes, we made a lot of exciting progress in understanding the molecular signaling pathways, some of which are shared outside the nervous system, that control the wiring of axons and assembly of synapses and repair of circuits after spinal cord injury.

You will be chairing the Frontiers of Cell Signal conference taking place in Shanghai, China on June 21-24, 2015. Are there any key questions in the field that will be addressed in this meeting?

Cell signaling is fundamental and yet extremely complex. It allows the cell and the organism to respond to signals, sometimes very subtly, in the environment in a variety of ways in order to the organism to survive or thrive. It also allows cells in the organism to interact with each other in meaningful ways to the benefit the organisms and the species. We chose to focus on the latest breakthroughs, some of the most powerful and versatile signaling pathways/systems, so that biologists from all areas of studies can compare notes, inspire each other and establish collaborations. We hope that our meeting will allow the smartest minds to brainstorm together and explore the most fundamental principles of cell signaling mechanisms in normal biological processes and diseases.

Who were your role models in the early years?

Many of my teachers and professors have been instrumental in shaping my growth. My thesis advisor Kenneth Chien and postdoctoral advisor Marc Tessier-Lavigne were among the most influential.

Looking back, what were the biggest challenges in your career?

Research is a demanding career. Researchers often face huge obstacles. I faced bottlenecks in all stages of my career, as a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow and as an assistant professor. I am still facing many new challenges. Therefore, I am hoping every day is another turning point of my career.

What would you like to be if you weren’t a scientist?

A tennis player.

Any words of wisdom for young researchers just starting their scientific career?

Don’t be intimidated about the progress and fast pace of today’s science. The frontier of human discovery is endless. You will find your place.