1. Could you tell us about your background i.e. department, research interests, hometown, hobbies?
I am an international undergraduate student from Shanghai, China. I was originally an undeclared major when I enter the university, and I finally switched to Material Science during the summer of my sophomore year. I always have an interest in both biology and engineering. Therefore, I would like to pursue my interest from an engineering angle to understand biological processes. My hobbies are reading science fictions and movies. I also work with the Illinois Biodiesel initiative to make soaps using the the waste oil from local CU restaurants.
2. What project you are working on this summer?
During this summer, I serve as a Blue Waters student intern, and I am conducting my computational research based on the resource that the supercomputer provides. I am mainly working with one of my graduate student mentors, Shriyaa Mittal, on a project called Molecular Modeling of Plant Hormone Receptors. Strigolactone is a plant hormone which induces growth of parasitic plants on hosts (basically crops), but it also helps the host plants to allow functions such as branch regulation with a lower affinity to the host than that of parasite. Since both the host and parasitic plants use strigolactone for some functions, it is vital to learn what causes the big difference in its molecular affinity and what is happening during the hormone-receptor interactions. Hence, we are trying to understand the mechanism of strigolactone receptor and its conformational change when sensing the ligand using Molecular dynamics, so that we can better clarify the how the infestations happen.
3. What is your favorite place or activity on campus or CU?
Though Champaign-Urbana district is quiet and peaceful, I like crowded places like Green Street and Downtown Champaign. I can easily discover different kinds of food among those areas, and trying various delicious food makes me happy. Also, parks like Kickapoo are good choices for outdoor activities.
4. Advice for students who want to pursue undergraduate research.
I would suggest students decide and focus on their interest in field of study as early as possible, so that they have enough time for undergraduate research. For me, I somehow wasted some time to catch up with the courses in Material Science major, and I actually hope I can have more time with my research.