Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A: I grew up in a family that prides itself on responsibility and integrity, and so I always had a strong desire to help others and the community. In primary school, I wanted to become a firefighter because they rescue people and save lives.
Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.
A: When I was in high school, the 2003 SARS outbreak was happening in my own community, and I watched doctors battle against the virus. This experience Influenced me to pursue a career in health care. Then, after learning about the lack of dentists in China, I chose to study dentistry.
Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?
A: The biggest problem in my research is how to deal with bone loss in the mouth. I still vividly remember a patient in her late 30s who had lost all her teeth as a result of a severe gum disease called periodontitis. The patient also had tremendous bone loss, which made her dentures uncomfortable and inefficient. From this experience, I understood how tooth loss and bone resorption negatively affect the quality of life and well-being of my patients. This influenced me to join the PhD – Periodontology Residency Combined Program at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, where I studied the causes of bone loss in the lab and provided treatment for patients with periodontitis in clinic.
Q: Describe your research in 5 words.
A: Strong bones make a smile.
Q: What are your passions outside of research?
A: I like outdoor activities like golfing and skiing when I am not doing research. This rejuvenates me and allows me to analyze my failed experiments and plan for new ones.