The scientist: Ta Yuan "T.Y." Chang, Ph.D. (right)
His titles: Professor and Chair of Biochemistry
Joined the faculty: 1976
What qualities do you look for in undergrads for your lab?
Good GPAs, some previous lab experience, and an interest in doing research. I also like to have students who are involved in sports and/or music.
What are the benefits of having undergrads in your lab?
Dartmouth undergraduates are usually smart and energetic but down-to-earth in spirit. Those who come to our lab are usually curious about research. These traits usually make them lively and courageous lab members.
Did you work in a lab when you were an undergrad?
Yes, in an organic chemistry lab in National Taiwan University. I did extraction, purification, and structure determination of natural products present in the leaves of a plant. That experience made me realize that I had a passion for research.
What are the challenges of having undergrads in your lab?
It takes time and effort to work with undergraduates. Fortunately, my wife, Cathy, who has been a senior research associate in my lab for almost 30 years, is a great teacher. She has helped to train all the undergraduate and graduate students and fellows and has been very patient and kind to them. The biggest reward has been that almost all of the undergraduates who trained in our lab have gone on to receive M.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. degrees. A few have become faculty members in major medical schools. Others have become physicians.
The student: Floyd Buen '09 (left)
Major: Biology, with a focus on biochemistry
Hometown: Santa Clarita, Calif.
Joined the Chang lab: Fall 2006
What are your career goals?
I want to pursue a career in research, maybe through an M.D.-Ph.D program. After I graduate I plan to work for a year or two, maybe at a hospital or for a nonprofit organization or the World Health Organization. I definitely want to go out of the country—maybe to the Philippines.
What got you interested in science?
I always had exposure to science. I got my first microscope when I was in elementary school. In high school, I had
advanced placement biology with a phenomenal teacher. Every student in our class loved her and learned successfully from her. I guess she inspired me to take an interest in science.
What drew you to the Chang lab?
I really wanted to learn the lab techniques because after class, you don't always understand how every single thing works, no matter how much the professor explains it to you. I wanted to have a hands-on experience and learn for myself.
What is the most difficult part of doing research as a student?
Time and patience. It's difficult to juggle your schoolwork and extracurricular activities with lab time because some experiments take the entire day. And you're always hoping for an experiment to work, and the majority of the time it doesn't.
What is the quality you most admire in people?
I admire people who are hardworking, goal oriented, intelligent, and, most important, human. To be intelligent is one thing but to be kind, compassionate, and willing to have fun is admirable.
What about you surprises others?
I come from a huge family, even though I have only one sibling—a younger sister. But both my parents come from really big families. At one family reunion, one of the emcees said my dad has 72 first cousins just on his mom's side. I don't know if
they were joking, but I'd certainly believe it. Family is the most important thing in my life.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can move my eyes from side to side freakishly fast.
What are your interests outside of school and work?
I love to play piano and hang out with my family.
What kind of music is on your iPod (or CD player) right now?
I really like Musiq Soulchild and John Legend. I have classical. I have Edvard Grieg. I have Jack Johnson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guster. I have some hip hop. I have Beatles. I have a lot of my parents' old stuff, like Journey, the Eagles. I don't have a lot of country, though.
Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Learn more languages. I want to learn Mandarin, French, Japanese—those are my top three—and then Italian and, down the road, German. I would also spend more time with my family.
The laboratory: Chang has had undergraduates in his lab for 31 years—more than 35 of them in all. The lab studies cholesterol regulation at the cellular and molecular level. Buen has been helping to analyze the effect of genetic inactivation of the enzyme ACAT1 on the progression of Alzheimer's disease in a mouse model.