JUSTL participant: Dr Nan Xiao

21 May 2020

Dr Nan Tori Xiao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific (San Francisco, US). After completing her DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and M. Ortho (Membership in Orthodontics) training at the School of Stromatology, Peking University (Beijing, China), she came to Hong Kong for her PhD studies in the laboratory of Prof Jun Xia (Division of Life Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). There, she investigated the role of protein interacting with C kinase 1 (PICK1) in the protein trafficking involved in the formation of the acrosome, as it is known that deficiencies in PICK1 lead to an infertility disorder in males called globozoospermia. After Dr Xiao finished her PhD in 2009, she moved to the US where she received postdoctoral training first in the Department of Oral Biology in the School of Dentistry at University of California Los Angeles and then in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Stanford University.

Current Work

Dr Xiao has worked at the Dugoni School of Dentistry since 2014. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she also conducts her own research. She is currently investigating stem cell-mediated regeneration and uses dental pulp stem cells, which are readily available and easily accessible during routine root canal surgery. Dr Xiao is interested in understanding the molecular pathways involved in stem cell regeneration and how her findings might be useful in a clinical application.

JUSTL Programme

I was impressed by the diversity of research done here, the tremendous cooperation of different labs and the amazing ideas of the researchers.

Dr Xiao was a participant in the 2007 JUSTL programme. She was mentored for the first four weeks of her stay by Prof Enrico Nasi (now at the National University of Colombia), and for the last four weeks by Prof Scott T. Brady (University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA). Dr Xiao was involved in two projects with Prof Nasi who investigates the light transduction pathway in the scallop retina. She used the SMART-RACE cDNA amplification technique in an attempt to 

amplify one of the photo pigments found in the ciliary cells of the scallop, and she was involved in obtaining the full length sequence of another photo pigment, called rhodopsin. Prof Brady is interested in the fast axonal transport that is known to occur in a number of neurodegenerative diseases and he utilizes the squid giant axon as a model system. When Dr Xiao worked in Prof Brady’s laboratory, she learned about various aspects of his work and the methodologies used to address his research questions.

In her end-of-programme report, Dr Xiao was impressed that, “Researchers from around the world come to the MBL during the summer and set up their lab here within a short period of time.” She went on to say that, “I was impressed by the diversity of research done here, the tremendous cooperation of different labs and the amazing ideas of the researchers.” She said that as a graduate student it was an eye opening experience and that, “Woods Hole is a paradise for researchers,” because people worked and relaxed when it suited them; they might work through the night and during the weekend and then go fishing every morning.

This was the first time that Dr Xiao had visited the US and she says that her 8-week stay at the MBL had an impact on the decisions she made about her career. Consequently, after completing her PhD in Hong Kong, instead of continuing her dental training, she made the decision to stay in academia so that she could spend her life doing research.