Research Q & A
What’s your hometown?
I grew up in a small Chinese city with more than 2,000 years of history, called Jining. If you know Confucius, he was from the same place.
What are you currently working on?
I am studying the relationship between climate and tree growth by analyzing the annual rings of trees.
How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?
I am coordinating with staff in the Bell Museum to modify this project into an educational module for the public audience. I want to show people that we can witness the evolutionary process within surprisingly short periods of time (a few weeks). This project will provide an alternative approach to learn about evolution besides reconstructing evolutionary history from fossils and specimens.
Where are you working on research/field work?
I do most of the research in the lab. I also study environmental microbes in lakes and collect water samples from Itasca Biological Station
What will your next steps/research be?
My aspiration is to become a faculty member in a teaching and research institution. I want to pass my passion of evolutionary biology to more people and inspire them to learn about nature.
I am holding the plates of the microbial species Pseudomonas fluorescens. In my project, I created a predator-prey microcosm where the protist Tetrahymena thermophila consumes Pseudomonas fluorescens. I have observed that the prey evolved to become multicellular clusters (visible by naked eyes) in order to avoid being eaten within two weeks. This provides evidence for one hypothesis that predation drives the evolution of multicellular organisms. I have completed the project in the lab and am preparing a manuscript. For the next step, I will modify this system into an educational module, which will be used in our Bell Museum. The idea is to show evolution in action for the public audience.