Xi He was born in Wuhan, China during the Cultural Revolution, though he and his family soon moved out of Wuhan into a much more rural area. His father was an associate professor in a medical university—an intellectual—that was targeted during the Revolution. He's early schooling was quite "backward" and "simple," yet he felt much respect for his teachers. Mao's death in 1976 opened a wealth of opportunities for many and college became a viable option for He. After completing the rigorous national college entrance exam, he returned to Wuhan and attended Huazhong University of Science and Technology, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He's interest in biology led him to pursue a master's degree in biomedical engineering at Huazhong University, during which time he was fortunate to meet Dr. Sidney Sullivan. He applied to and matriculated at the University of California, San Diego for his doctoral degree, transitioning into not only a different national culture, but also a different academic culture. He chose to work in Michael G. Rosenfeld's laboratory at San Diego and pursued research on transcription factors in the regulation of brain development. He decided to continue his scientific life in the United States and took a postdoctoral fellowship in Luis Parada's laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During his time at the NIH, He married and also began studies in the molecular biology of Wnt signaling in cells in Harold E. Varmus's lab at the NIH. After finishing his postdoctoral work, He accepted a principal investigator position at Harvard University where he developed his research on the Wnt cell signaling pathway in gene expression, regulation, and development. Throughout the remainder of the oral history He discusses laboratory management, competition, collaboration, funding, and his transition from China to the United States (He became a US citizen). The interview concludes with He's thoughts on the role of the scientist in educating the public; the privatization of research; gender and ethnicity issues in science; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his scientific career.
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