In recognition of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, we’re profiling some of the postdoctoral researchers who make invaluable contributions to scientific research at Massachusetts General Hospital every day.
Yangyundou Wang, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow working in the Vakoc Lab at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine.
My work at Mass General is very interdisciplinary. It combines applied optics, theoretical physics and biomedical engineering.
The idea is to make optical coherence tomography, which doctors now use to examine your retina, suitable for a new application, namely burn wound debridement (removing dead or damaged tissue to speed healing).
We are now testing a prototype that we hope will lead to a much better treatment of burn victims.
Who was your first scientific mentor? How did he or she influence your career?
This is what my PhD advisor’s mentor told him and what he passed on to me: The hard part of science is to come up with a good question.
What advice would you give a first-year postdoc?
For those post-docs who’d like to explore a totally new research area—go for it! (I myself went from theoretical physicist to biomedical engineer.)
What is one thing that you wish more people understood about science?
If I can choose just one thing, it’s this: Without science we would all be toothless at 25, and dead by 30.
What is one mistake you made in the lab? What happened?
The mistake I made is that I took off a mirror from my lab’s legacy system for biomedical imaging. I did not realize it until my colleague told me that she could no longer get an image and that the legacy was still active! I felt horrible.
In your opinion, what has been the most important scientific breakthrough of the past 10 years? Why?
Ok, it’s more than ten years old, but I still want to choose fiber optics. It has tremendously changed our world. Modern fiber-optic communication dates back to the early 1960s, when Charles Kao theoretically predicted that high-speed messages could be transmitted long distances over a narrow glass waveguide, which is now commonly referred to as an optical fiber. Without it there would be no Internet.
What science movies do you like and why?
The movie The Imitation Game struck me a lot. The movie tells a story of the brilliant British computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing. His led the great breakthrough on cryptography during the Second World War.
His work is also widely considered as the prototype of artificial intelligence. But in the movie, you see how sad his personal life was. I think a more diverse and open society can give brilliant researchers a better chance to pursue their dreams and careers.
About the Mass General Research Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States. Research at Mass General takes place in over 30 departments, centers and institutes and is supported by federal and state funding, foundations, industry partners and philanthropic donations.