China Agricultural University
Thesis: Mechanisms of transcriptional regulation by enhancers
Yanfeng He readily admits that as a child he preferred outdoor leisure activities in China’s beautiful Hunan province to science. But participation in his high school’s biological Olympiads captivated him and after graduation in 2009, he enrolled at China Agricultural University (CAU) in Beijing. Over the next 4 years, he took coursework that earned him a BS in biotechnology while working on research projects ranging from the structural analysis of cytokine/receptor interactions (work he co-authored in a 2013 PNAS paper) to carotenoid production by the yeast Phaffia rhodozyma.
Interest in yeast biology, combined with a competitive spirit, landed He a spot as CAU team leader at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, in which undergraduate teams from around the world build synthetic biology systems. He’s team expressed an enzyme that metabolizes ethanol in bacteria as a futuristic antidote for human alcohol overindulgence, earning them the bronze medal in the Asia-regional competition.Increasingly drawn to basic science, He attended a talk about chromatin remodeling by Stowers Investigator Jerry Workman at Beijing’s National Institute of Biological Sciences. Although too reluctant to approach Workman afterwards, He went home and looked up Workman’s profile, and then immediately applied to the Stowers Graduate School.