Dec 19, 2022
“As a child, I raised many pets, which included a dog, rabbit, turtle, fish, hedgehog, chicken, and even some insects. I talked to them every day and imagined what their world would be like,” recalled Dr Xiaoyu Wei of her childhood.
This natural curiosity and passion for animals in her early childhood is what led Dr Wei to embark on a career in the field of life sciences.
“That’s why I chose to study life sciences. My parents were also very supportive – they joked that maybe I could help create an elixir of immortality, which would allow them to live forever!” Wei, now a Project Leader with BGI-Research, added with a laugh.
In 2015, Wei participated in a summer camp organized by BGI Group and was introduced to BGI’s research platform and their extensive genomics research resources. In 2016, she joined BGI College to pursue her Masters and PhD degrees. There, her interest in genomics deepened.
“I was totally fascinated by genomics. I experienced the pure magic of sequencing technology, which helps us understand life from a new and completely different perspective,” said Wei.
“Studying genomics allowed me to enter a microcosm filled with colors. This field allows us to investigate a wide variety of cells and explore them at a molecular level,” she added.
Last year, Wei obtained her PhD degree and began her post-doctoral studies in BGI-Research. “Now, I’m mostly focused on omics tools, such as single-cell sequencing and spatial-temporal sequencing, to study how cell fate changes during the developmental and regeneration process,” she added.
In September, Wei was a member of a team of international researchers who used BGI’s revolutionary Stereo-seq technology to construct the world first spatiotemporal cellular atlas of the axolotl brain development and regeneration, revealing how a brain injury can heal itself. The study was published as part of the cover feature in Science.
“The axolotl is considered the ‘champion of regeneration’ because it can completely regenerate multiple tissues. The best part is, the axolotl has very similar properties compared with the mammalian brain structure. So it is a model organism for research into brain regeneration,” she said.
“In this study, we also discovered a new subpopulation of neuron stem cells, which form the origin of neurogenesis for regeneration. This result provides new ideas and guidance for regenerative medicine in the mammalian nervous system, and possibly the human brain.”
Dr Wei working with her team.
Looking ahead, Wei is excited by the potential of this study. “In the future, we will pay more attention to finding the key transcript factor and try to learn how to regenerate the human brain from the axolotl.”
Meanwhile, being a woman in the life sciences industry has more advantages than drawbacks, Wei said.
“For me, gender is not a commonly perceived disadvantage, but an advantage. Women can be more meticulous and pay more attention to detail – traits which are highly appreciated by the scientific community,” she pointed out.
Opportunities for women scientists also abound in BGI. “For example, BGI’s annual ICG event has a dedicated conference for female scientists to share their research and interests. I think female scientists should believe in themselves and be passionate about what they truly love,” she added.
Although Wei leads a fast-paced life – “racing against the clock every day” – she ensures she gets adequate downtime with her dog – Epi.
“Epi is my best friend – I named her Epi for the science of epigenetics, and her sister is named after the Nature journal, while her brother reminds us of BGI’s motto, which is to build a future of omics for all,” said Wei.
“My dogs are beautiful creatures, full of curiosity about the world – just like me!”
Click on the video link below to find out more about Wei.