Stem Cells in Focus

Member Spotlight on Becky Tsai, PhD

  • 17 April, 2017
Hometown:
Chino, CA, USA

Current Residence:
Pasadena, CA, USA

Undergraduate Degrees:
BA in Biology, Scripps College in Claremont, CA, USA

Graduate Degree:
PhD in Biomedical Sciences, University of California, Irvine

Current Positions:
CIRM Postdoctoral Scholar Laboratory of Ravi Bhatia, City of Hope National Medical Center; President/Chair of the City of Hope Postdoctoral Association; Advisory Chair of Crescendo Young Musicians Guild

Editor’s note: Dr. Tsai was the winner of a member raffle at the 12th Annual Meeting in Vancouver. By visiting the ISSCR Central booth, her name was entered and randomly chosen to receive complimentary registration to ISSCR 2015. See us in Stockholm for a chance to win a local prize courtesy of the Stockholm Visitors Board or complimentary registration to ISSCR 2016.

What is the current focus of your research?

I am investigating the pathogenesis of therapy-related myelodysplasia( t-MDS). The t-MDS group in Dr. Ravi Bhatia’s laboratory have designed a prospective, longitudinal evaluation of lymphoma patients undergoing autologous HCT at the City of Hope National Medical Center. In addition to relevant clinical information and detailed therapeutic exposure data, blood and marrow samples are collected and banked (pre-aHCT and after treatment for up to 10 years). This study design allows for serial assessment of cellular and molecular abnormalities in hematopoietic cells over a period extending from genotoxic exposure to the development of t MDS.

What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?

My affinity for research developed during my undergraduate studies in biology at Scripps College when I recognized that at the core of diseases is the loss of control over very intricate networks of molecular signals. Since then, I have been fascinated by the molecular mechanisms that contribute to tumorigenesis in the stem cell niche and the genetic markers that signal cancer development and progression. My long-standing interest lies in the development of tools that contribute to improving patient diagnosis and treatment.

How do you spend your free time?

I love podcasts and photography. I am inspired by the artistry in storytelling and the honesty and power of still photos. My playlist will always include "This American Life", “Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!", "The Moth", and "Hardcore History". I have been testing out several science podcasts and am happy to say that I’ve started to follow The Stem Cell Podcast [the official podcast of the ISSCR that focuses on providing fellow scientists up-to-date information on recent literature and trends].

As a photographer, I am moved by images that tell a story. I have great admiration for many types of work from Ansel Adam’s magnificent landscapes to the raw portraits from Humans of New York. I miss the days when I had the time and access to develop my own black and white film shots. These days I get my photography fix by shooting weddings, concerts, or family events.

What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a musician, I co-founded a non-profit youth music organization, Crescendo Young Musicians Guild (CYMG.org). I was inspired by some close friends – including the current president of CYMG, Pin Chen – to help close the gap that the Los Angeles school district left when art and music budgets were cut. The purpose of CYMG is to offer free and low-cost music classes for youth in the Los Angeles area and provide opportunities for them to perform for the community Music is a wonderful way for people of all ages to connect and communicate.

Since I have always been interested in community outreach and have worked with local K-12 educators on science workshops, I knew the importance of this endeavor. Also, I think that music is often overlooked as a form of entertainment. It is truly a language of its own and a unique and important form of communication. 

What do you like most about living and working where you do?

I work, live, and commute along the beautiful foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. The beaches are a just a podcast away. The weather and view is as amazing as you imagine it to be in Southern California. City of Hope is an exceptional institution for translational research. Being a major cancer hospital as well as a research center, our patients remind us of the purpose of our research and inspire us to persevere for better diagnoses and treatments.

What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

I am proud of being a member of a community of researchers that gathers regularly to discuss critical issues of stem cell research and policies. ISSCR has provided a wonderful forum for networking and collaborations. ISSCR has been very supportive of young researchers and connecting them with the stem cell community. I was very impressed by the ISSCR Annual Meeting in Vancouver and the number of young investigators that were highlighted at the conference.