Meet graduate student Yuxiang Wang

Yuxiang Wang first became interested in science during a middle school biology course when he found himself intrigued with biological processes. Recently, his vaccine research has refocused from tick-borne diseases to the COVID-19 virus, and for the first time in his career he feels a sense of urgency and importance to work that could contribute to a vaccine. In the future, he hopes to find a university position that includes teaching and research. Here’s what he had to say about his experiences at UConn.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

My long-term goal has always been establishing my own lab, doing my own research and mentoring my own students. Therefore, I had also realized a long time ago that, in order to be capable of doing scientific research, I need to seek professional training. Graduate school was the exact choice for me.

Who is your advisor? What is your field of research?

Dr. Paulo Verardi. My field is virology and our lab’s main focus is development of vaccine candidates for different infectious diseases.

Name one aspect of your work that you like.

What interests me the most is the opportunity to test and prove my hypothesis through experiments. It doesn’t always have to be a big hypothesis for an entire project. Very frequently it could just be a novel idea that I can quickly test with a small experiment. It’s the accumulation of these small successes that keeps me looking forward to the next step of the experiment and the next stage of the project.

In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment so far?

I was able to make approximately ten vaccine candidates for five different vector-borne infectious diseases within a summer. We haven’t been able to test them in animal models yet due to lack of funding, but at least I was able to generate them in a fairly short period of time.

When do you expect to get your degree? What then?

I was expecting to get my Ph.D. in the summer of 2021. However, due to COVID-19 and the change of my project to this topic, there might be months of delay before I complete my Ph.D. program. The next step for me is to do a post-doc where I can really train my ability to independently do research and to prepare myself for becoming a scientist in the following few years. After that, I’d like to go back to China and establish my own lab there.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I’d like to talk about how I live and enjoy my life outside lab/work. Unlike many who may think doing something specially planned or significantly different is the only way to enjoy your life, such as taking a trip to an island, moving to another city, etc., I enjoy and appreciate each and every single day of my life. Seeing the morning sun shine through the window, boiling a pot of broccoli with water vapor rising, greeting a colleague at work, listening to the rainstorm growling outside, going to a friend’s place for dinner, etc. These repetitive details don’t bore me, but instead, remind me of how lucky we are. Simply put, I embrace my life and never escape from it.

By Kim Colavito Markesich