Dr. Yi-Chieh Nancy Du has been deeply attracted to science since she was in elementary school. She convinced her father to get her microscope, chemicals, beakers, and test tubes to do experiments at home. To pursue her passion in scientific discovery, Dr. Du gave up the opportunity of entering medical school, and joined Department of Life Science at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), Taiwan. She received mentorship from Dr. Pien-Chien Huang, Dr. Tzong-Hsiung Hseu, and many other professors. She learned how to engineer protein mutations and purify proteins during her undergraduate research at NTHU and summer research at Yale University. This experience broadened Dr. Du’s perspective and made her want to stay in the lab day and night. She found out that the joy from doing research greatly balances out against the frustration and sometimes the loneliness.
After graduated with a bachelor's degree from NTHU, Dr. Du entered PhD program of State University of New York at Stony Brook. She was trained by Dr. Bruce Stillman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Dr. Stillman has made many significant achievements including the biochemical reconstitution with purified proteins of the complete replication of the SV40 DNA genome and the discovery of the Origin Recognition Complex (ORC). In Dr. Du’s graduate studies, she discovered a regulatory mechanism that coordinates cell proliferation with DNA replication and ribosome biogenesis using yeast (Du and Stillman, Cell, 2002).
As a result of her PhD work, Dr. Du developed interests in cancer research and became a postdoctoral fellow with Nobel Laureate Dr. Harold Varmus at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The most important work from her postdoctoral studies was to develop a mouse model, RIP-Tag; RIP-tva, to study metastasis (Du et al., PLoS Biology, 2007). Using a novel and innovative approach of employing somatic gene transfer system, this mouse model offers a unique opportunity to investigate molecular networks that drive the tumor progression to metastasis.
In her laboratory at Weill Cornell Medicine, Dr. Du and her team have expanded the scope from mouse models to human tissues and have been collaborating with other scientists and clinicians to better understand cancer metastasis. Dr. Du’s laboratory applies a multidisciplinary approach to analyze the molecular mechanism of metastasis, combining molecular biology and genomics tools with animal models and in vivo imaging technologies. Dr. Du’s achievements have been recognized by Scholar-in-Training Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, Career Development Award from Department of Defense, President's Council of Cornell Women Affinito-Stewart Award, and BCRP Breakthrough Award from Department of Defense.