Spotlight on Young Researchers: Xianqing Mao

 

Xianqing Mao comes from a family of professors and doctors and thus has always had a natural interest in science. The Chinese national completed a medical degree, but felt she still had unanswered questions, so she decided to go abroad and took a leap into biomedical research. After stays in France, the UK, the United States and Belgium, Xianqing is now transitioning from junior to senior researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, where she has already been involved in several projects investigating cancer progression.

“For a successful career in research, three things are essential for me: firstly, to be competent in my field; secondly, to be able to raise the awareness of people around me on health issues; finally, to be a social person, open-minded, communicative and with a strong team spirit”, Xianqing Mao says.

Since arriving in Luxembourg in 2013, she has been working in the ‘Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression’ research group at the LIH. Xianqing explains that her group is interested in metastasis – the process of cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body, and the main cause of death from cancer.

“Cancer cells progressively evolve to become more and more invasive and be able to escape from the immune surveillance system. Both tumour cell invasion and immune resistance involve actin cytoskeletal changes. My research mainly focuses on actin regulatory proteins and related signalling pathways driving tumour cell invasion and immune evasion, with the goal to identify new prognostic markers and therapeutic targets.”, Xianqing explains.

A scientific cocktail

Xianqing is a postdoctoral researcher – a transition period from junior to senior researcher. How is her every-day routine changing as she progresses in her career?

“My typical work day sounds like a tasteful scientific cocktail”, Xianqing says and adds:

“Generally, I spend about 50% of my time working at the bench, setting up and conducting biological experiments. About another 50% are spent on project management and coordination: designing experiments, writing experimental procedures and analysing data. I also review experimental designs, experimental procedures, results and data analyses generated by junior team members, assist with writing journal articles and abstracts, and present my project results at scientific conferences.

“I am progressively given more and more responsibilities within the team. I now assist the team leader with grant proposal writing, make recommendations for new equipment purchases, hold laboratory meetings, participate in the hiring of new group members and establish collaborations.”

Xianqing stems from a family with an abundance of professors and medical doctors. It is no surprise that she was almost born with an interest in science – Xianqing explains that early on she was particularly interested in biomedicine and the function of cells within an organism.

It was during her medical studies that Xianqing developed an interest in experimental cancer research. She embarked on a PhD at the University of Lorraine in Nancy in France, where she worked on a project – later published in the journal Oncogene – in which it was discovered that a particular enzyme has important clinical value as a prognostic marker in a subtype of breast cancer.

With all the countries Xianqing has already worked in – how did she end up in Luxembourg and how is she thriving?

“During this 4-year experience [of my PhD,]I became highly passionate about research. I realized that my training requires far more breadth if I want to establish a successful research career. I continued travelling, learning and working, and finally arrived in Luxembourg”.

Since she arrived in the Grand Duchy in 2013, Xianqing has already been involved in 3 research projects (2 supported by Fondation Cancer and 1 supported by Think Pink Lux), and is about to embark on the FNR CORE project METASTALIM. In 2015, she had the opportunity to be a committee member of the European Health Parliament in Brussels, a hugely enriching experience:

“I met more than 50 young professionals from all across Europe. During 6 months we worked together intensively to deliver high-level policy-oriented recommendations that shall positively influence and change the future of healthcare in Europe. This work experience really broadened my horizon. It made me “think big” and I felt proud to act as a European citizen for public healthcare.”

“Research environment in Luxembourg is more attractive than in other countries”

We ask Xianqing what she thinks about the potential of Luxembourg’s research environment, and whether she could see herself sticking around for a bit longer in the Grand Duchy:

“I have travelled a lot during the early stages of my academic career (China-France-Scotland-England-United States-Belgium), however, I feel that Luxembourg is an attractive place for me to make a longer stop and develop my career,” Xianqing says and adds:

“I think that the research environment in Luxembourg is more attractive than in other countries owing to the government’s efforts to support and develop the sector of research and innovation. I believe that Luxembourg has a lot of potential for researchers to develop themselves and for long-term career evolution.”


Published 10 August 2017

Xianqing Mao

RELATED PROGRAMMES

About Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the 23rd in a series of 25 articles, which are published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Multiple nationalities, one goal

What do a French, a Spanish, a Brazilian and an Algerian researcher have in common? In the case of Adeline Boileau, Antonio Salgado Somoza, Clarissa P. C. Gomes and Torkia Lalem, it’s that they are all early-career researchers who came to Luxembourg to join forces in the Cardiovascular Research Unit (CVRU) at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), which aims to identify new personalised strategies to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: László Sándor

For László Sándor research is the ultimate war against ‘fake news’. After completing his PhD in Economics at Harvard, the Hungarian-American national chose a Postdoc position at the Luxembourg School of Finance at the University of Luxembourg, where his work includes big data projects, field experiments in household finance and applied microeconomics.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Noémie Catherine Engel

Noémie Catherine Engel has just begun her researcher journey – and she has found her niche already: As part of her AFR PhD at the University of Bath, the Luxembourg national investigates the evolution of sex role traits in a small shorebird species in Cape Verde.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Thomas Schaubroeck

Thomas Schaubroeck specialises in sustainability assessment of products. We speak to the Belgian national about the research he is undertaking in the framework of an Industrial Fellowship between the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and company Tarkett; how working with industry differs from academia; and how he hopes his research can help industry steer toward a more sustainable future.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Paul Johanns

Paul Johanns works in a research field one does not read about every day: knots. As part of his AFR PhD at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Luxembourg national combines high-precision model experiments, computation and theory to untangle the influence of topology on the mechanics of complex knots, particularly those used in surgical procedures.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Jo Hoeser

Ever since he was a child, Jo Hoeser wanted to understand the function of complex systems. He found himself taking apart and trying to fix broken electronic devices. Then fascination for chemistry came into the mix. Fast forward some years and the Luxembourg national completed his AFR PhD in biochemistry at the Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg – and wants to return to the Grand Duchy to continue his career in research.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Thomas Elliot

When Thomas Elliot (Tom) cycled from Indonesia to London, he witnessed many people living in hardship. Motivated to research how consumption affects social and environmental justice in a bid to help reduce the hardship witnessed, the New Zealand national applied for an open PhD position at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), where he now works on a project that fuses urban metabolism and ecosystem services.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Guillaume Nataf

“Would matter be perfect, it would be boring” says Guillaume Nataf, who has an oozing passion for physics and teaching fundamental science. The French national did his PhD in the group of FNR PEARL Chair Jens Kreisel at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), in collaboration with the French Atomic Commission (CEA). We spoke to Guillaume, who has just started a Postdoc at the University of Cambridge, about life as a researcher.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Paul Hauseux

Paul Hauseux was always interested in science, but only recently settled on the researcher path. Before that, his career ambitions stretched from working in sports or music to teaching science. Some years and a PhD later, the French national has come to Luxembourg for his computational engineering Postdoc in the team of ERC grantee Stéphane Bordas at the University of Luxembourg.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Gilles Tossing

Gilles Tossing’s fascination for the human brain – and why it sometimes fails – led him to the path of research. Now in the second year of his AFR PhD at Université de Montréal in Canada, the Luxembourg national investigates neurodegenerative diseases, with the aim of improving treatments for those affected.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies for analytics purposes. Find out more in our Privacy Statement