National Taiwan University in Taipei
Thesis: Germline development and adult gonad niche of Cnidarian sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis
During his interview at Stowers, Cheng-Yi Chen was struck not only by the excellent scientific environment, but by the energy and enthusiasm of the predoctoral researchers he met. This seemed a good sign: elsewhere he’d visited, that was not the case.
After reading papers analyzing the regenerative powers of planarian worms authored by Stowers Investigator Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Chen immediately applied to the Stowers Institute. As a student at National Taiwan University in Taipei, he too helped pioneer an emerging model of regeneration: the segmented worm Aeolosoma. That work, which defined a role for Wnt signaling in head regeneration, earned him a bachelor’s degree in life sciences in 2009 and a master’s degree in zoology in 2011.
A year of mandatory military service interrupted Chen’s plan to pursue a PhD. Instead, when his obligation was complete, he returned to a different institute, Academia Sinica in Taipei, where he worked as a research assistant. There, he spent two years immersed in evo-devo biology with Jr-Kai Yu, PhD and Yi-Hsien Su, PhD making evolutionary comparisons of development of deuterostomes, focusing particularly on how embryonic marine organisms called amphioxus establish polarity.
Chen remains fascinated by regeneration but is open to change. In fact, he deliberately chose to earn a PhD abroad because he thinks scientists can only make breakthroughs if they are willing to leave their comfort zone. A few reminders of home won’t hurt though, and he looks forward to finding a good Taiwanese restaurant.