Kejia Zhang

Graduate Student, The Fu Lab

You work in a laboratory.  What are you currently researching?

My research is related to the modifications of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) and the enzyme called TRMT1 (tRNA methyltransferase 1). Transfer RNAs are subject to numerous post-transcriptional modifications. In mammalian cells, tRNA methyltransferase 1 (TRMT1) is a tRNA methyltransferases that catalyzes the formation of the dimethylguanosine (m2,2G) modification in more than half of tRNA species. Frameshift mutations in the TRMT1 gene have been shown to cause autosomal-recessive intellectual disability (ID) in the human population. My main project is to uncover the relationship between human mental disease and tRNA modifications.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

Since I was little, my parents did a lot to cultivate my curiosity and encourage me to form my own opinions after thinking. Thanks to my inspiring biology teacher in high school and all the fun scientific experiments (they were like fun games to me at that time), I gained a great interest in biology and decided to choose biology as my major in college.

What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?

I am really lucky to meet Dr. Dragony Fu and all my lab mates. They give me so much help and joyful times. As an international student, it is difficult for me to get back and see my family, so my lab is like family for me. We also celebrate birthdays and get gift cards and cakes for each member of the lab. In addition, I have made a lot of good friends in the department and all our professors are nice and helpful.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

I think the most important thing to me in studying biology is to be patient. There will be lots of positive results from preliminary data and some may turn out not true or can not be repeated. It is easy to get disappointed and to struggle if we are too eager to prove our original thoughts. In my opinion, there are many unrelated factors in the experiments that can affect the final results, especially in complex systems (mice, for example). Patience and repetition are the only way to prove your answer.

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

I have a wide range of hobbies, including traveling, playing the piano, swimming, cooking, and shopping. I like to try new things and I started craving hiking recently. I feel relaxed when I get closer to nature and breathe the fresh air. I also have two cute guinea pigs and I love taking care of them. Their little squeals and purrs just soften me.