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Shih-Jung Fan


Postdoctoral Research Scientist

I graduated in Zoology from the National Taiwan University and also went on to do a Master’s degree at the same university. The aim of my Masters project was to identify new maternal effect genes and analyse their function during early embryogenesis in Drosophila. Intrigued by the fact that several embryonic polarity determinants are asymmetrically deposited in the oocyte, I went on to focus on the mechanism of mRNA localisation during Drosophila oogenesis during my doctorate at EMBL in Germany.

During my Postdoctoral work, I decided to expand my research interests and moved from the field of cell fate determination to explore cell growth control, which plays an important role during development as well as pathogenesis, such as cancer. Cells need to respond to their environments in order to adjust their growth. This is particularly vital for tumour cells, because they can grow at an exponential rate and in hostile microenvironments. In the lab, I use both Drosophila and human cancer cell lines to understand how normal and cancer cells respond to limited amino acid supplies to change internal cellular signalling, detected through the microenvironmental stress sensor, mTOR complex 1, which is a critical signalling hub within cells with a central role in regulating cell growth and metabolism. In addition, I am also interested in strategies developed by cells to overcome environmental challenges, such as the secretion of extracellular vesicles from intracellular compartments (known as exosomes) and from the cell surface. Such vesicles have been implicated in reprogramming other cells, eg modulating behaviour (Corrigan et al., 2014) or facilitating metastatic spread.