JUSTL participant: Dr Helen Baixia Hao
Dr Helen Baixia Hao is currently a Research Associate at Aegle Research LLC, Allendale, New Jersey, USA. Dr Hao completed her PhD in 2013 in the laboratory of Dr Jianbo Yue (formerly of The University of Hong Kong), conducting research on the regulation and function of store-operated calcium entry during the neural differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells. She then conducted post-doctoral research, first at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in the Division of Life Science in the laboratory of Professor Andrew L. Miller, and then at the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) with Professor Melitta Schachner and Professor Wise Young.
Dr Hao started working with Aegle Research LLC in April 2019 where she is currently involved in isolating and culturing immune cells from the blood of cancer patients. After the culture process, the activated immune cells are then transfused back into the patient. This is a new therapeutic treatment for patients where conventional chemo- and radio-therapeutic methods are no longer a viable option. This technique has shown promising results in clinical trials, especially in patients with late-stage lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Dr Hao was one of the more senior JUSTL participants as she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow when she attended the JUSTL programme in 2015. At the MBL, Dr Hao worked with Dr Marko Horb (Senior Scientist and Director of the National Xenopus Facility at the MBL) where she helped to screen and identify transgenic Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis larvae that expressed aequorin in all the cells of the body or just in the neurons. The transgenic Xenopus laevis lines had previously been prepared by JUSTL participant, Dr Edward Lau, in 2013.
Dr Hao enjoyed her summer at the MBL. She told me that “the scientific environment in Woods Hole is very impressive” as she met people doing research from “all over the world who were working on different projects.” Dr Hao remembers the seminars that she attended – during lunch-times and most evenings as well as the open talks during the day for the various MBL Summer courses. There were regular Friday evening lectures, which were held throughout the summer and these were also open to the general public. Dr Hao remembers one lecture in particular where Professor Cheryl Hayashi (Curator, Professor and Director of Comparative Biology Research at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA), described her work on elucidating the genetic structure of spider silk. However, it was the Thursday evening neuroscience lectures that really inspired Dr Hao. Indeed, it was learning about cutting-edge research being applied in neuroscience research that motivated her to apply for the Post-Doctoral Fellowship position at Rutgers University. To this end, Dr Hao firmly believes that attending the JUSTL programme helped to shape her career. Summing up her impressions about spending the summer at the MBL, Dr Hao said that “it was an inspiring and wonderful experience both for my scientific research and personal development.”