New labs in molecular biology, biochemistry and fintech named to honor donors | Duke Kunshan University

New labs in molecular biology, biochemistry and fintech named to honor donors

October 27, 2020

Some of the equipment in Duke Kunshan’s biology research lab

By DKU Staff

Duke Kunshan has named three new laboratories in honor of donors whose funding will support the university’s cutting-edge research in biochemistry, molecular biology and financial technology (fintech).

University leaders, donor representatives, faculty and students marked the inauguration of the Wang-Cai Biochemistry Lab, Synear Food Molecular Biology Lab and Jufeng Fintech Innovation Lab at a ceremony in September.

Speaking at the event, Chancellor Youmei Feng said that Duke Kunshan is founded on the shared vision of like-minded people. She thanked the donors for their support, saying it had inspired students, faculty and staff.

“Our faculty will use the new labs to conduct high-level research, which will also enhance their teaching,” Feng said. “In addition, as our undergraduate students are encouraged to conduct research with professors, the facilities will help them develop research skills, so that they can learn more and contribute more to society.”

Inset 1: Chancellor Youmei Feng and VCAA Scott MacEachern join donors in unveiling (from top) the Synear Food Molecular Biology Lab, the Junfeng Fintech Innovation Lab and the Wang-Cai Biochemistry Lab.

The Wang-Cai Biochemistry Lab, named for donors Xinya Wang and Tong Cai, will combine traditional drug targets with the latest developments in metabolomics, multi-omics systems biology and human microbiome in order to explore disease mechanisms and treatments.

In addition, the facility will support undergraduate researchers in producing their signature work, a final-year project that encourages students to seek creative alignments between curricular pathways and to engage in experiential learning. Using the lab, students will experience the full research cycle, identifying questions, formulating and testing hypotheses through experimentation, and analyzing results for research papers, laying a solid foundation for a career in in-depth research.

Wang, founding partner of private equity fund Beautiful Mind Capital, and her husband, Cai, chairman of ABA Chemicals, both have a professional background in chemistry and years of industry experience.

Researchers in the Synear Food Molecular Biology Lab will use advanced technology to study the mechanisms of cancer and other severe diseases, and develop new methods for detection and targeted treatments. It will also help undergraduates explore cutting-edge biological and medical topics, and develop independent research capabilities.

The lab has been named for Synear Food, a major frozen food company. Individual donations toward the lab also came from Ronald Liu; Hongqi Dai, chairman of Shanghai Xunwang Communication, and his wife, Jian Jiang; and Dayong Mo, CEO of Beijing Orient Bewealth Technology.

Peng Wang, CEO of Synear Food, said that by attracting people from different countries and backgrounds, Duke Kunshan is enhancing communication and exchanges, and developing students’ overall capacity to address complex global challenges.

The Jufeng Fintech Innovation Lab, named for Jufeng Fintech, will serve as a platform for interdisciplinary research and training in financial engineering. It will provide rich opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to practice innovation and entrepreneurship, improve their research and working skills, and gain confidence in the fintech sector.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Xin Li, associate dean for research at Duke Kunshan, said biochemistry, molecular biology and fintech are important research areas and attract great interest from students.

The labs will help further develop the university’s research and teaching capacity, support students in extracurricular activities, and serve as a platform to connect resources at Duke University and Wuhan University, he said.

Scott MacEachern, vice chancellor for academic affairs, added, “These new labs are a wonderful addition to our capabilities and will provide great support to the educational and research mission of the university over the long term.”

Student presentations

In addition to the ceremony, Duke Kunshan undergraduate students also presented to donors and other attendees on their research and entrepreneurial projects.

Molecular bioscience major Yue Yu ’22 shared his work with Kai Zhang, assistant professor of chemistry, to create a molecular dynamics program that simulates the diffusion and separation of gas or low-density nanoscale particles in the regular pores of diffusion membranes.

Diffusion membranes are widely used in the separation of contaminated particles in the air, and in the filtration and purification process of drugs. Yu’s study provides valuable insight for diffusion membrane designers on the trade-offs between diffusion and separation of porous membranes.

Inset 2: Students present their research and innovation projects. Center: The Mylens team. Clockwise from top right: Zikang Jia ’22, the GIVME5 team, Yue Yu ’22, and the Major Match team.

Zikang Jia ’22, who majors in applied mathematics and computational science, spoke about his interdisciplinary research experience with Song Gao, professor of environmental science, which saw him analyze data from the China National Environmental Monitoring Center to characterize the temporal and spatial variations of pollutants.

Jia, who has presented his findings at academic conferences, said he has learned to pursue research with grit and to apply his methods and knowledge flexibly in the face of challenges.

Third-year students Jingyi Qiu, Qi Guo and Bei Chen introduced their project Major Match, an online platform for Chinese high school students to find information on university majors. They have made short videos with Duke Kunshan professors to share the course content, employment prospects and future options for a range of majors, aiming to create a flexible, customized and equitable educational platform.

Fellow juniors Lan Tang, Qinyi Wang, Haitong Lin and Yishui Sun also presented on Mylens, a platform that provides short, easy-to-digest interpretations of lengthy privacy policies to help users understand how websites might use their data. They hope to create an interactive website and app that makes it easier to read such policies.

Sophomores Xiaobing Lin, Zhiyuan Liu, Qingyu Gan, Shuyuan Zhou, You Wu and Yanzhang Song introduced their GIVME5 wearable products, which facilitate interpersonal communication by combining hardware and cloud-based data. The team plans to use sensors and programming to create clothing that interacts with the wearer’s senses, such as touch and smell, which could enable people to share a hug despite being far apart.