Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Xin Yi Chan

ChanName:  Xin Yi Chan
UR Major:  Molecular Genetics
Other UR Majors/Minors: Japanese
Additional Education: PhD in Biology
Current City, State of Residence: Baltimore, Maryland
Job Title: Post Doctoral Fellow
Employer: Johns Hopkins Medical Institute

How did you choose your major(s)?

I have always loved biology ever since I was in high school.  The one experience that reinforced my passion in biology was when I worked in a zebrafish lab the summer of my freshmen year, helping out with lab chores and having a little side project of my own.  Looking at the zebrafish embryos made me realized how amazing it is to observe the developmental process of a living organism and make sense of it.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

As a student, I worked in three different research labs, helping out with lab chores and having my own project. These experiences gave me a head start in research and the opportunity to have hands-on experience of multiple laboratory techniques. They also helped me determine my future direction as a scientist.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

My mentors are Dr. David Lambert and Dr. Cheeptip Benyajati.  Personally, I believe that the mentor-mentee relationship lasts “forever” (as long as the two are alive) because a good mentor would always help shape a part of the mentee’s life and their teaching will always influence the mentee in the future.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

Asking questions. This is something you do not learn from textbooks.  Remember to constantly ask questions of yourself and others while you are working on a project.  “Why do I do this?,” “What is the impact of this project?,” “Is this the best method to approach the problem?,” etc. Probing the right questions always lead to exciting ideas and it is also a great way to realize what you are enthusiastic about. And remember, there are no stupid questions!!!!

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

I wished I had done more research about academia before graduating. When I was an undergraduate, I was naïve to think that academia is better than industry because it is less political and offers more opportunities. Turns out, this is not the case. Anyway, there is nothing I would have done differently because I love doing research in the academic setting but I just wished that I had known about the ‘not so pretty’ side of academia.