Her own working week is half city government, half research. “In particular we’d like to know how the Epstein-Barr virus” – which can cause cancer – “works with the host cells.” The questions her group is asking would not be out of place at the National Cancer Institute. Her laboratory has about 20 persons, mostly PhD candidates, with five technicians. Her entire Cancer Research Institute has six laboratories, 50 faculty, some 100 students. Six faculty members are among those Chinese scientists who have returned from abroad. The center is part of the medical school.
“For my lab, I think it is okay. I think we do a very good job,” she said. “And also, in my lab we have very good teamwork. They can share the information, share the idea, exchange the information, the discussion.” She was deeply influenced by her time at the National Cancer Institute. Her boss in the medical school is a scientist: “He is academy member, 74 years old.” Is automatic respect for elders a problem? “No.” It doesn’t get in the way of the science? I rephrased the question, twice. Each time she sat mum, gave no answer.
I asked what she saw as the problems. “I think the most important big point is, we should publish more our work in the international journals. So the whole world get the chance to know more what are we doing in China. The major problem is a language problem. Editor always say the English is not native. And they say, you need some native person to help you improve the quality of the paper.” She gave me a bibliography of all the biology papers by scientists in China published between 2000 and the summer of 2005 in Science, Nature, and Cell. They numbered 36. Most listed large numbers of coauthors, the largest, 30. Of her own laboratory, she said, “This year we try to publish some good papers in JBC and the PNAS,” the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.
Any more? “Yes. I think we should give up all the low-level repeat work. It doesn’t make any sense. It just make more trash!”