Westlake Honors Outstanding Postdoctoral Women with Inaugural Awards

08, 2023

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The second Westlake Female Scientist Development Forum and 2023 Westlake Women In Science Award Ceremony was held at Yungu Campus on March 8. The awards ceremony saw the first winners of the new Westlake Outstanding Postdoctoral Women awards.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) sent a congratulatory letter to the event. James George, deputy representative of the United Nations Development Program in China, said in the congratulatory letter, "We thank the Westlake Education Foundation for supporting women researchers at Westlake University. I hope this will encourage more young women to join science education and careers."

Expressing support for the forum were Yigong Shi, president of Westlake University, BAO Zhenan, academician of the National Academy of Engineering and dean of the School of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, and REN Yonghua, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and chair professor of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Hong Kong.

At the event, Jiaxing Huang, chair professor of materials science at Westlake and chair of the Westlake Outstanding Postdoctoral Women Award Review Committee, announced the list of winners of the 2022 Westlake Outstanding Postdoctoral Women Award: Yaoting Sun, Lu Xu, and Jing Huang. HE, ZENG. Huang expressed at the event, "The talents of the three winners, their love for scientific research, and their unwavering pursuit of scientific research have deeply moved all the judges."

Yaoting Sun, a postdoctoral fellow in Tiannan Guo's research group with the School of Life Sciences, focuses on the precise diagnosis of thyroid nodules based on clinical proteome big data and artificial intelligence. At the beginning of the pandemic, Sun was urgently asked to apply technology combining proteomics and artificial intelligence to differentiate mild and severe cases of Covid-19 patients. Sun is among the first researchers in the world to discover the changes in serum proteins and metabolites in Covid-19 patients after infection, and proposed a potential diagnostic model. To her, the enjoyment of scientific research is endless. “Whenever I do experiments or read literature, time flies quickly,” she said. "I am deeply driven by my curiosity about the mysteries of human beings. As a scientific researcher, I hope to work hard to find answers."

Yaoting Sun

Lu Xu, a postdoctoral fellow in Dan Yang's research group at the School of Life Sciences, has long been engaged in the research and development of drugs and pathogenesis of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, affect a wide range of patients. China has more than 140 million diabetics, the world's largest number of people suffering from the disease. Early diagnosis and treatment of such diseases remains difficult due to the complex pathogenesis. Xu hopes that through her research, small molecular probes can be used to find new targets for metabolic diseases and overcome the challenges in early diagnosis   and the many side effects of long-term medication. "The meaning behind this award is very important to me, and it has made me more determined in my choices,” Xu said. “Some of my colleagues, friends, and family members are also facing the question of whether to continue scientific research. I’m sure more women will be encouraged."

Lu Xu

A postdoctoral fellow in Jianjun Cheng's research group at the School of Engineering, Jing Huang explores the preparation of synthetic proteins with structures and properties similar to natural proteins through synthetic methods. Some medicine is protein-based, such as antibody drugs used to treat tumors. But these antibodies are very expensive. If special synthetic methods can be used to prepare proteins with the same function, patients from ordinary families can also afford treatment. Huang’s research goal is to use a simpler, more convenient, and faster method to prepare synthetic proteins to help treat more people. She said, "Scientific research is not only my job, but also the way I can contribute to society." Huang hopes to become a principal investigator in the future. "When women express themselves, they may often encounter a lack of self-confidence, whether caused by the environment or driven by personality. I hope to encourage more female scientific researchers to stand up, believe in themselves, and really bring change to the world."

Jing Huang

Postdoctoral work is a critical stage for a scientific researcher to grow into a scientist. The WE Foundation hopes that postdoctoral researchers can also gain recognition and support. To this end, the initiative For Westlake Women in Science set up the Westlake Outstanding Postdoctoral Women Award. In the future the initiative will establish more funds and awards to support female researchers to bravely pursue their scientific research dreams.

On the first anniversary of the launch of the Westlake Female Scientist Development Support Program, Minhao Liu, secretary-general of the Westlake Education Foundation, associate vice president of Westlake University, and secretary of the Board of Trustees of Westlake University, said at the forum, "We believe that with the support of society, female scientists will continue to grow in the future. The scientific community will be stronger for it, and human exploration of the world will definitely advance."