BCDRN Trainee Spotlight: Rui Shang, UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences

BCDRN Trainee Spotlight: Rui Shang, UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Our BCDRN trainee profile this fall is Rui Shang, a PhD candidate in the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences working in Dr. Brian Rodrigues’ lab. Rui shares how her passion for diabetic heart disease research has brought her from China, to Japan and then to Canada to pursue her PhD at UBC.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Qingdao, a coastal city in China that is in the northern region. Interestingly, Qingdao has a climate and geography similar to Vancouver. Its claim to fame is its cuisine, but more importantly its flagship Tsingtao draft beer!

What did you study in your undergrad and where?

Interested in traveling, language and food, I went to Japan where I completed my BSc at the University of Tsukuba. My main focus was in the nutritional sciences and its impact in managing metabolic disorders. In addition to my scientific training, I picked up the Japanese language which allowed me to appreciate their culture and cuisine.

What got you interested in diabetes research?

My initial interest and passion were to study heart physiology and pathophysiology. Given that China is at the top of the list of countries with the highest incidence of diabetes and that people with diabetes have increased susceptibility to develop heart disease, I decided to pursue a PhD in diabetic heart disease. My supervisor, Dr. Brian Rodrigues, has published extensively in this area, has an excellent training program and an established reputation of his trainees being successful in academia. As he encourages trainees to choose, secure and succeed in academic positions and given my own interests in developing an independent research program, I was very lucky to begin a PhD in his lab.

How far along are you in your graduate program and what do you hope to achieve in 2020-21 with your research?

I joined the Faculty of Pharmaceutical  Sciences at UBC in the fall of 2018 as a Master’s student. I was officially transferred to the PhD program in January of this year. With my comprehensive now completed, my target is to get some of my novel and exciting data published. My wishlist for 2021 also includes reinforcing a number of research collaborations in the field of vascular endothelial growth factors, mitochondrial energetics and whole-body substrate metabolism.

Any funny stories to share with the trainee community?

To say that my time spent in Japan was interesting would be an understatement. Starting from the complexity of the Japanese language to the social norms, there was never a day when I did not instigate laughter. One story that comes to mind is the Japanese obsession for “Core Time”. In my previous lab, this meant being at the bench from 10AM-5PM unconditionally. Given my affliction for a good night’s sleep, I invariably traipsed into the lab after 10AM (to everyone’s consternation). I never tiptoed in; instead I would greet everyone enthusiastically. My brazenness was eventually tolerated – I was awarded a certificate that appreciated my language skill, experimental expertise and prowess for sleeping at my graduation farewell party.

Any advice for trainees starting out on how to connect with colleagues?

My personal take is that the bigger your scientific “bubble”, the more you will be exposed to new ideas, technology and information.  What has helped me leave my comfort zone is to participate in seminars, local and international conferences, BCDRN instigated events and faculty driven social activities. I am never intimidated about participating and I am always in line to ask the next question.

What was your favourite research event/meeting to attend?

I was so looking forward to going to Vienna to present at the EASD annual meeting. Not sure whether it’s fair comparing Kelowna to Vienna. My favorite event (so far) has thus been the UBCO Diabetes Research Day 2019 held in Kelowna, BC. It was extremely well organized, a great venue with excellent food and outstanding science.

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