Postdoctoral Alumni - Jie He



Jie He
Investigator, The Institute of Neuroscience
Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

A midnight phone chat with Stowers PI Ron Yu changed Jie He’s life. Raised near Shanghai, He was completing a PhD degree at the Institute of Biophysics in Beijing and had sent resumes to US labs. Stowers scientific director at the time, Robb Krumlauf, put him in touch with Yu, then a new PI. Yu eventually offered him a postdoc.

”Yu was a systems neuroscientist, so he could give me training in an area I needed to learn,” says He. Soon after in 2005, He, who had never visited the US, landed on Friday night in Kansas City (having lost luggage in Chicago), caught a cab to a hotel, and next day woke up in a town much quieter than Beijing or Shanghai. What to do? Visit the lab, of course. By Monday, He was sporting a Stowers ID badge.

In the lab of Ron Yu, now a Stowers Associate Investigator, He studied olfactory receptors responsive to pheromones, molecules that stimulate social behavioral responses to other animals. By 2008, He was first author of a groundbreaking Science paper showing that in mice small groups of neurons in a sense organ called the vomeronasal organ are dedicated to detecting the gender of either male or female mice. He’s 2010 paper in Journal of Neuroscience showed how signals interpreted though the vomeronasal organ activate pheromone recognition.

“After that, I started looking for a job in China but found that mouse models were expensive!” says He. “I knew I needed to switch to a different model system, and zebrafish was emerging as tools for neuroscience research.” So He left Stowers in 2010 to pursue a second postdoc in Cambridge with Bill Harris, where he learned how progenitor cells give rise to mature retinal cells in fish, work published in 2012 in Neuron.

Since 2013, He has been on the faculty at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai, where he researches fish retinal development and heads a group of about 10 people. “Stowers was a solid step in my career,” he says. “I was exposed to new technology and ideas. Stowers postdocs had good relationships with neighboring labs often over lunch and coffee, and everyone was shared techniques. That is so invaluable to a postdoc.”