April 15, 2017

Research brings PKUHSC student to Michigan Medicine

PKUHSC student Shiwei Zhu in the lab at Michigan Medicine.

Faculty aren’t the only ones impacted by collaborative research supported through the Joint Institute. Students, too, benefit as projects present educational opportunities for each institution to host visiting learners. This spring, two PKUHSC postdoctoral students visited Ann Arbor to work alongside UMMS faculty on JI projects.

Shiwei Zhu, a 2019 PhD candidate at PKUHSC, spent three months working in the lab of Professor of Internal Medicine Chung Owyang on a project examining the gut microbiota of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One of Zhu’s mentor’s at PKUHSC is Liping Duan, MD, the co-investigator on the study.

“Working closely with Dr. Owyang and the technicians at UMMS has been a great opportunity and experience for me,” Zhu said. “Everyone is very open to sharing their knowledge and experience, and I’ve learned so much in just a few months. It goes by so fast.”

The study involves comparing both American and Chinese patients with IBS to determine what genetic and dietary factors influence the disease progression, with a specific aim of identifying the microbial characteristics of patients who respond well to antibiotics – not all IBS sufferers do.

“Gastroenterology is my primary interest, so I’m fortunate to be involved this project,” Zhu said. “I was involved from the beginning and was excited for the opportunity to come to U-M to work on it. I’ve been preparing (for the visit) for more than year.”

PUHSC student Yaqin Wang, a 2018 PhD Candidate, joined the lab of Internal Medicine Professor Subramanian Pennathur for four months this spring. Dr. Pennathur and his JI collaborator, PUHSC Professor of Nephrology Yuqing Chen, MD, are researching potential urinary glycoprotein biomarkers for Chronic Kidney Disease.

“In order to be a doctor in the Nephrology Department at PUHSC, you have to have some research experience, so I am very glad to have the opportunity to come here,” Wang said. “Dr. Pennathur and his team are very accommodating. They are very open to questions and good at providing advice.”

In her four months at UMMS, Wang has been learning mass spectrometry equipment and processes not readily available in her lab at PKUHSC. Zhu also has been exposed to advanced bioinformatics equipment  and processes for the first time. She is the third PKUHSC student to visit Dr. Owyang’s lab.

“Like the others, I find Dr. Zhu to be highly intelligent, hardworking and self-motivated. She is  eager to learn and always raises good questions during our lab meetings,” Dr. Owyang said. “At the same time, we’ve learned much from Dr. Zhu about how our colleagues at PKUHSC conduct clinical research. It is interesting to note the differences from cultural point of view. It has been a pleasure to have her visit our laboratory.”