Stanford recognizes work of biochemistry grad student

By Aline McKenzie / September 2010

Ying Liu, a graduate student in Dr. Qinghua Liu’s laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry, has been named one of three winners of the 2010 Stanford Biochemistry Founders’ Award for Doctoral Excellence for her work on RNA interference (RNAi).

The Stanford University award, created in 2009, is designed to encourage women in science. Recipients receive a trip to Stanford, where they meet with members of the department, present their research and receive a $500 honorarium.

Ying Liu (left) and Dr. Qinghua Liu

“I thought her work was a biochemical tour de force and extremely relevant to understanding RNAi,” said Dr. Pehr Harbury, associate professor of biochemistry at Stanford, who participated in selecting the winners.

Ms. Liu, who is not related to Dr. Liu, studies the mechanism and structure of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC).

Ms. Liu was lead author of a study that appeared in Science last year in which she used biochemical purification methods to isolate an enzyme that helps
activate the RISC, resulting in a more
efficient RNAi process.

Dr. Liu, associate professor of biochemistry and a W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr. Scholar in Medical Research, also praised Ms. Liu’s research approach as “classic” biochemistry. “This paper is one of the most elegant examples of biochemistry at its best,” he said.

Ms. Liu, a fourth-year student in the biological chemistry Ph.D. program, earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Nanjing University in China.

“She seems to be one of those people who are born to do science,” Dr. Liu said. “She is clearly one of the best students I have ever seen. Many graduate students do what their principal investigator tells them to do. She tells me what to do.”