Westlake University Welcomes Four New Principal Investigators

02, 2022

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In the second quarter of 2022, Westlake University welcomed four new principal investigators to our community. It’s with great pleasure that we introduce these talented thinkers to you.

Thuan Beng Saw

School of Life Sciences

Laboratory of Electromechanobiology

Prof. Thuan Beng Saw lived in Penang, Malaysia during his teenage years and obtained a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science double degree in 2013 from the physics department, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Ecole Polytechnique, France. He did his undergraduate research in quantum information and bioengineering problems related to atherosclerosis. He continued with a Ph.D. at the Mechanobiology Institute (MBI, NUS), where he discovered that topological defects in the cell alignment field induce cell death. This finding earned him the best thesis award at NUS. Similar (active) liquid crystalline organizing principles have since been found in mouse hepatocyte organization, bacteria biofilm formation, hydra morphogenesis and other systems. Saw, who received a Lee Kuan Yew Postdoctoral fellowship in 2018, is continuing to study the combined roles of bioelectric potentials and mechanobiology in governing tissue homeostasis at Westlake University.

Xing Gu

School of Science

Homotopy Theory and Algebraic Topology Group

Prof. Xing Gu was born in 1987 in the city of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. Nankai University awarded him a bachelor's degree in science in 2010  and a master's degree in theoretical mathematics in 2013. He received his Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 2017 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He subsequently served as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne from November 2017 to January 2020, and at the Max Planck Institute from February 2020 to January 2021. In April 2022, he joined Westlake University, where he focuses his research on homotopy theory and the theory of characteristic classes of Lie groups and algebraic groups.

Lei Wei

School of Life Sciences

Viral Pathogen and Host Interaction Laboratory

Prof. Lei Wei received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tsinghua University, China. He obtained his doctoral degree in molecular biology and genetics from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). His doctoral research focused on the detailed molecular mechanisms of the regulation of DNA replication and repair. He then developed an interest in the interface of host and viral pathogens, and investigated the molecular mechanism of hepatitis B virus replication as a postdoctoral associate at Princeton University. Wei  joined Westlake University in 2022 as the principal investigator for the Viral Pathogen and Host Interaction Laboratory.


Yihan Wan

School of Life Sciences

Single Molecule Dynamic Gene Expression Group

Prof. Yihan Wan received her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Jilin University and then her Ph.D. from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. She was trained in cell biology with Prof. Xueliang Zhu, and then Prof. Yixian Zheng at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Embryology. In 2015, Wan joined Prof. Daniel Larson’s lab at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. Based on the strength of Larson’s state-of-the-art technique to visualize RNA in space and time, she established a high-throughput single-molecule imaging system to record the nascent RNA dynamics in living cells. This work reveals the working mechanism of RNA polymerase and spliceosome in real time. In 2019, she was awarded the NCI Director’s Innovation Award. Currently, Wan’s primary research goal is to understand the transcriptomic nascent RNA dynamics in human cells, starting from the mechanistic behavior of individual macromolecules and proceeding to their regulation in cells and tissues.