Renowned biologist Yan Ning hired as director of Shenzhen Bay Lab, months after announcing resignation from Princeton University
Published: Mar 24, 2023 02:10 AM
Yan Ning Photo: VCG

Yan Ning Photo: VCG

World-renowned structural biologist Yan Ning, a former professor at Princeton University, has been officially hired as director of the Shenzhen Bay Laboratory, the lab announced on Thursday.

Yan, 45, revealed in November 2022 that she would resign from Princeton University in the US and join the establishment of Shenzhen Medical Academy of Research and Translation (SMART) in the near future. Her homecoming was heatedly discussed and warmly welcomed by the Chinese academic sector and the general public.

The appointment of Yan Ning as the director of the Shenzhen Bay Lab was announced on Thursday via the lab's official WeChat account.

During a staff meeting on Wednesday, Yan expressed her desire to work with all lab staff and friends from all walks of life to overcome difficulties and strive for the construction of an international first-class research institution, according to the announcement.

The Shenzhen Bay Lab was established four years ago, and has completed its first-stage missions despite the impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the announcement.

The establishment of the new medical academy in Shenzhen is one of the main projects in building a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics in Shenzhen, according to the medical academy.

While announcing her resignation in November, Yan said she wants to support more outstanding scholars and tackle various health threats facing mankind, according to The Paper.

She called her return to China her "third dream." Yan's move comes amid efforts by China to attract more top talent to return to China for opportunities and development.

Yan's reputation extends beyond the scientific community, and is well known by the public. Yan received her degree from the Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology at Tsinghua University in China in 2000. She was the regional winner of the Young Scientist Award (North America) co-sponsored by Science/AAAS and GE Healthcare in 2005 for her thesis on the structural and mechanistic study of programmed cell death, according to her biography on the Princeton University website.

Yan earned her PhD at Princeton in 2004, and returned in 2018 as the first Shirley M. Tilghman Professor of Molecular Biology. She was elected as National Academy of Sciences Foreign Associate in 2019 for outstanding contributions to research.

Observers have noted that China has continuously broadened its opening toward talent from abroad, creating an environment where talent is recognized, respected, and utilized.

Meanwhile, the research environment in the field of innovation in the US is believed to be deteriorating. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal in September 2022, "an increasingly hostile political and racial environment" is one of the reasons that drive a growing number of Chinese American scientists and engineers to give up their positions at top US universities and return to China or elsewhere.

In recent years, more and more overseas Chinese scientists have chosen to return home. In 2021, more than 1,400 Chinese scientists gave up their jobs in US academic institutions or companies and returned to China, a 22-percent increase from the previous year. There are also many top scholars who came to China from Britain, Japan and other countries.

Global Times