By Brittany Yingling
Shiyong Wu's interest in teaching, research and technology commercialization attracted him to Ohio University, where he hopes to pursue a career that involves all three areas. Since June, he has worked as a principal investigator at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and as an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The seasoned scientist brings a contagious enthusiasm for research and a National Institutes of Health grant to fund his work.
Wu comes to Ohio University from the University of Michigan, where he worked as an assistant research scientist in the Department of Radiation Oncology and studied cellular signaling pathways that are involved in cancer and radiation, such as X-rays and ultraviolet light. He and other researchers were the first to discover a UV-induced signaling pathway that affects the cellular process of protein synthesis. Once UV rays penetrate skin cells, he explained, the damaged cells that remain in the body eventually could turn into cancer.
But the lack of teaching duties and highly focused research on radiation oncology in a clinical department prompted him to move to Athens. He's looking forward to teaching his first course in biochemistry to undergraduate and graduate students in the spring.
"That's really the reason I came here ? for a change," Wu said. "We want to expand our research to more areas, not limited just to radiation and cancer."
In his new lab at the Wilfred R. Konneker Research Center on the Ridges, he uses cultured cancer cells to study the regulation of a process called translation. Translation has been linked to many diseases, including diabetes, cancer, obesity and viral infections. In his experiments, he manipulates the proteins within the cell and shuts down certain ones to study the different signaling pathways in which these proteins may be involved.
"The protein is really the one who does the work," he explained.
His observations could lead him to design new diagnostic tools to screen drugs for treatment of cancer and other diseases. Wu also wants to launch a cancer research and education program at Ohio University, as the institution is located in a region that has one of the highest national rates of cancer. He would like to combine the efforts of physics and engineering researchers who are already investigating cancer at the university. However, the collaborative effort would require new equipment and significant funding to allow for a more in-depth study of the disease, he noted.
Wu has been successful at securing funding for his own research. He received a five-year grant for more than $1 million dollars in September 2000 from the National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency dedicated to supporting medical and behavioral research.
He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1983, a master's degree in chemistry in 1990 and a doctoral degree in chemistry in 1992, both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Ohio University's Edison Biotechnology Institute was established in 1984 as a biomedical genetics research institute focused on the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments for major regional health problems. It is part of the Vice President for Research division.
Brittany Yingling is a student writer with Research Communications.