Assistant Professor Tina Wang arrived at UW-Madison on July 8, to conduct research in chemical biology, exploring the interplay between protein folding and function, and development of robust sensors and gene circuits.
Wang received a bachelor’s of science from the California Institute of Technology (2009) and a Ph.D. from Yale University (2015). She also recently completed a four-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.
How did you get started in chemistry?
As an undergraduate I found my courses in chemistry to be really interesting, which convinced me to major in the subject. While at Caltech, I also had the opportunity to work for the late Professor John Roberts, a chemist whose legacy as a mentor to undergraduates cannot be overstated. That experience, which showed me how the theory I was taught in the classroom could connect with experiments in the lab, convinced me that I wanted to pursue a PhD in chemistry.
What did you study in graduate school?
During my time at Yale, I worked in the lab of Professor David Spiegel to study a type of protein modification called advanced glycation endproducts. These molecules are a result of the non-enzymatic reaction of proteins with sugars and tend to be more prevalent in those who are older or diabetic. Their functions are still pretty unclear, but they’re thought to cause protein damage and inflammation.
What did you find most interesting about your postdoc?
I did my postdoc with Professor David Liu at Harvard/The Broad Institute, where I worked on the directed evolution of various proteins using a system called PACE. Aside from being a great mentor, David has been highly successful at bringing together a group of people from all sorts of disciplinary backgrounds to create a fantastic lab environment that allows creativity and innovation to flourish.
Why did you choose Madison?
Besides being a world-class research institution, Madison has what I think is just a really special atmosphere. Everyone I’ve met has been so friendly and helpful, which is not only really important for a new lab, but also makes the department a great place to work in general.
What do you look forward to in running a new lab?
I’m looking forward to working together with my students to build something new from the ground up.
What is your philosophy on mentorship?
Because different students can have different needs, my philosophy is that mentorship should be flexible. For example, I hope to really work closely with my students for the first year or so to build up a strong foundation of theory and skills, but the ultimate goal is to enable them to achieve scientific independence. That might mean becoming more hands-off as they grow more confident in their own abilities.