Cheng-Ming Chiang was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, the second youngest of four siblings, and the first to attend college. Chiang was raised by his mother who worked as a taxi driver in Taiwan for over twenty years. With two older siblings in high school and a full-time, working mother, Chiang devoted his time at home to his studies and minding his younger brother. He went through the Taiwanese educational system without much consideration for his future career, though with an interest in science. He decided he wanted to go to college and took entrance exams with the intention of attending National Taiwan University. Uninterested in re-taking exams in order to enter a doctorate of medicine program, and considering his burgeoning interest in science, Chiang decided to become a student in what he considered to be the best department at National Taiwan University, the Department of Agricultural Chemistry. While an undergraduate he had the opportunity to learn biochemical and cell biological techniques in labs, including column chromatography, sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and mammalian cell culture; Chiang decided he wanted to become a scientist. Upon graduating Chiang began his two years of military service, during which time he started to prepare for a graduate education in the United States. After his stint in the military, and while applying to doctoral programs, he spent one year as a lab technician at National Taiwan University studying human papillomavirus. He matriculated at the University of Rochester in New York and continued research on human papillomavirus with Thomas R. Broker and Louise T. Chow, specifically performing molecular biology mapping through RNA splicing of variants by retrovirus-mediated gene transfer in human papillomavirus type 11, all the while adjusting to American culture. He finished his degree in just over three years, and his thesis not only won the best thesis award in the department of biochemistry, but also the best thesis award for the entire medical school. From Rochester Chiang went on to Rockefeller University for a postdoctoral fellowship with Robert G. Roeder to study protein biochemistry: purifying human transcription factor IID using retrovirus-mediated gene transfer and the FLAG-epitope tag; he and his wife were expecting the birth of their daughter shortly after the start of Chiang's position. After his fellowship he accepted a position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and then moved on to Case Western Reserve University, researching the biochemical aspects of human papillomavirus gene regulation. Throughout the interview Chiang compares his time and education in the United States to his time in Taiwan, also providing some historical perspectives on Taiwanese history as he lived it. The interview ends with a discussion of a wide variety of topics that include his laboratory and mentoring; racial discrimination in science; his wife's career and balancing family and career; training students in basic science; politics in publishing scientific papers; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in helping him establish his lab during its early years when funding was critical.
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