Lijian Hui, PhD
Jan 11, 2021
Hometown: Suzhou, China
Current residence: Shanghai, China
Graduate degree: PhD
Current position: Professor, Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, China
What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?
My lab is currently interested in cell identity conversion, namely transdifferentiation and dedifferentiation. Cell identity conversion provides us a new paradigm to generate functional cells independent of stem cells in vitro and in vivo. We are trying to understand the molecular regulation and principles underlying cell identity conversion and, in parallel, their roles in tissue regeneration. We use the liver as our study system, which possesses remarkable regeneration capability.
I will be excited about anything new we find in the lab and the new progress in the field. In addition, I find it rewarding when our findings are used by other labs or further developed for clinic applications.
What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?
I was curious about nature when I was a kid. I always dreamed of being a physicist until I took a biology class in high school. I studied cancer biology during my PhD and postdoc trainings. When I started my own lab, I wanted to work on something different. My postdoc mentor, Erwin Wagner at that time in IMP, Vienna, also kept a small team on embryonic stem cells, and I have been fascinated by stemness since then. Later, the seminal finding of iPSCs showed me the door from which I entered the field of cell identity conversion.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
I am excited by the new findings in the lab, for example, the first documentation of hepatocyte-like cells generated from fibroblasts and the first large expansion of human primary hepatocytes via partial dedifferentiation. I was also excited when our cells were applied in a bio-artificial liver device and were used for liver failure patients in an investigator-initiated study. The first time they were delivered to a patient I was sleepless that night.
What guidance would you share in talking with trainees interested in pursuing your area of research?
Experimental study is time consuming and, at some points, can be quite frustrating. I would suggest keeping enthusiasm in science. I think it is key to understand the significance and impact that their projects could bring to the field. And it is important to figure out whether the question is answerable by state-of-the-art techniques.
Do you have any mentors or individuals who have inspired you in your stem cell work?
Many. When I was a junior faculty member, my institute invited two mentors for me, Zhenggang Liu at the NIH and Jiahuai Han at Xiamen University. They both provided invaluable strategic advice for me to find my own research direction. My friend and former colleague Xin Wang guided me into the field of liver regeneration. Naihe Jing at my institute helped me build a framework around stem cell biology by organizing regular internal seminars. Qi Zhou at the Institute of Zoology, CAS encouraged me to apply our findings to translation.
How do you spend your free time?
I like to spend time with my family and my two sons, they grow too fast. I also spend time reading and doing some light sports.
What is something your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
We are the champion team of the 2018 dragon-boat race (35 teams in total!) held by the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission, and I am the captain on board.
What do you most value about your membership with the ISSCR?
I think the ISSCR provides me the largest platform to show our findings and it’s an international community where people share each other’s progress. I also hope I might have a chance to serve the community and the ISSCR someday.
Careers in Industry
Career talks featured at ISSCR’s VISION2030 event, focused on opportunities for a decade ahead.
BlueRock Therapeutics | Career Talks
Panel discussion with Timsi Rao, Scientist III, Genome Sciences and Stephany Sakharny, Senior Human Resources Manager of BlueRock Therapeutics.
STEMCELL Technologies | Career Talks
Panel discussion with Christine Genge, Manager, Recruitment and Nina Quiskamp, Scientist of STEMCELL Technologies.
ElevateBio | Career Talks
Panel discussion with Cherylene Plewa, PhD, VP, Cellular Engineering and Austin Thiel, PhD, Director Stem Cell Biology of ElevateBio.
ISSCR 2020 Virtual Videos
Junior Investigator Career Panel
Finding Your Fit: Defining Goals and Taking Action to Achieve Long-term
Moderator: Evan Graham, ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee, CELLINK
Panelists: Heather Duffy, Creative Innovation Consulting, Steve Kattman, Sana Biotechnology, Danijela Menicanin, University of Adelaide, and Itedale Namro Redwan, CELLINK.
Despite how it can sometimes appear, the path to a satisfying career is rarely straightforward. Are you currently asking yourself “How do I decide on a career path?” If so, join us for an in-depth panel discussion about how individual definitions for success and failure can help you identify your goals, adjust to setbacks, determine when it’s time to make a change, and what steps to take now to achieve your long-term goals. This casual event hosted by the Junior Investigator Committee is intended to foster frank conversation about how to assess career decisions early on.
Early Career Group Leader Panel
Re-Defining the Success of Your Lab in Changing Times: Productivity, Motivation and Enrichment
Moderator: Josh Currie, Co-chair, ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee, Wake Forest University
Panelists: Valentina Greco, Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale Medical School, Konrad Hochedlinger, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Joanna Wysocka, Stanford University.
Even prior to lab shutdowns, you might have often been awake at night feeling anxious about the success of your trainees and your projects. With bench research and much of science at a standstill, how can PIs regain perspective and purpose to re-define a thriving lab? This event is organized for early career PIs to learn tools and tips from more senior ISSCR scientists about how to get the most out of your lab. We will address topics such as setting up a strong lab culture from the beginning, enriching the lab experience to make your team the most productive, and recruiting the best people to improve motivation and promote strong research. Additionally, this event is meant to foster conversation about how to support, motivate, and train lab members under these exceptional circumstances. Come join us to learn, share, and discuss different recipes for a successful lab.