Meet the Postdocs – Chanyi Lu

Chanyi Lu, PhD, received her doctorate in microbiology from Fudan University in Shanghai, China. She currently works in the laboratory of Peihua Jiang, PhD, researching parasites and tuft cells in the small intestine in addition to taste tissue regeneration in the tongue.

Chanyi Lu

Chanyi Lu, PhD

Q. I know you have been very busy lately, how has your day been?
Yes, very busy! I actually just got home, so I can be with my son. My husband and I take turns. We are both scientists. He is in neuroscience, and I am in cell biology.

Q. And how is it like for you, being a scientist at Monell?
It can be intense, but this has been a good place for me as a postdoc. I am constantly being pushed to learn new skills, but I am also feeling the support and attention I need to succeed at using those skills I am learning.

Q. So how are you using these skills now?
I am currently working on two projects at Monell. One is about tuft cells. They are chemosensory cells just like those of taste or olfaction, except they are in the small intestine. But that’s not the most interesting thing about them yet. Their main and most intriguing function is how they detect and initiate immune response against parasites, which makes their study very significant for global health. Still, there are so many unanswered questions!

Q. Oh, tell me more; what questions are you trying to address?
We are trying to delve deeper into the mechanisms of how tuft cells can do all of that. What receptors allow them to sense parasites? How do they initiate the immune response? And what downstream effectors are involved in killing or exposing the parasite? What’s great is that our preliminary data looks promising, and we might be approaching some answers!

Q. Very exciting! How about your other project? Taste tissue regeneration, right?
Exactly! We want to understand how the regeneration of taste cells is regulated. They are, in a way, just like our skin cells that are continuously being renewed. For now, we know that gustatory neurons (taste neurons) are involved in this process by releasing R-spondin proteins. And this is great progress!

Q. It sounds like it can get overwhelming simultaneously working on multiple projects. What do you do outside of the lab to unwind?
With the pandemic, I have been really dedicating almost all of my time to work and my family. Sometimes I relax and read a book. But to be honest, even then, it’s probably a book that will help me either be a better scientist or a better mom. I think it is good to be able to relax, and I think it is even better to do it in a way that helps me be the person I aspire to be.

Q. Such wise words! Would you recommend any of these books?
I unfortunately don’t think I will be very helpful with this one. Almost everything I read is in Chinese. Even if it is not a Chinese book, I’m probably reading a Chinese translation. This way I enjoy what I am reading more, because I can connect with the language more than I do with English.

Q. This makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing with us!
Of course! My language experience, just like everyone’s, affects my day to day life. For instance, I just had to do a presentation on my research for AChemS, and I was worried about not being able to communicate everything I wanted to say. But I practice as much as I can, and I make sure I am using words that make sense to me as well as to my audience whether that’s other scientists or just my son!