Xiaoyang (Serene) Hu
Research Interests: Bioinformatics, Mammalian Chemosensation, Olfactory System
I am originally from Singapore, a cosmopolitan city-state that is one of the main financial centers in Asia. I completed my undergraduate studies in microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I did my senior honors thesis under the guidance of Dr Kalin Vetsigian (Systems Biology), where I was exposed to bacterial phylogenetics and coding in R.
My first rotation at Duke University was in Dr Jack Keene’s lab. Under the mentorship of a postdoc, Jeff Blackinton, I learned to apply bioinformatics to RNA-sequence data sets, and thus, trace changes in transcription factor regulation over time. Here I appreciate the power of next generation sequencing in solving complex biological problems that seemed previously unapproachable. Gene expression data sets in biological systems record critical information and molecular details like a high resolution photograph, allowing us to take a close look individual pieces of the biological puzzle.
I currently work in the Matsunami lab, where we study molecular mechanisms underlying mammalian chemosensation. I focus specifically on odor recognition, and explore methods to extract RNA information about the odorant receptors (ORs) from the mammalian olfactory epithelium. Ultimately, we aim to deorphanize ORs from their chemical ligands at a fraction of the current cost. Optimization of this technology will allow for large-scale identification of mammalian ORs that detect particular odors, enabling us to understand how distinctive smells are encoded by the olfactory system.
While not in lab, I like to travel. Before coming to graduate school, I went to 15 different cities in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States. Soon, I plan to head down to the Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico.