Yun Li

From China to Melbourne to Iowa in the pursuit of scientific excellence

Embarking on a scientific journey that spans continents, Yun Li, an enterprising young researcher, shares her experiences—from WEHI in Melbourne to the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. Originally from China, Yun shares with us the story behind pivotal moments, challenges, and her unwavering pursuit of knowledge.

“My time at WEHI was nothing short of exhilarating. Participating in the InSPIRE program under the mentorship of Prof Daniel Gray at the Gray Lab marked a pivotal turning point.”

The InSPIRE program invites third year undergraduate students from selected universities across Asia to apply for a fully-funded, 10-week internship to work with some of Australia’s leading scientists at WEHI, and at our partner institutions including Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Bio21 Institute, the University of Melbourne, the Peter Doherty Institute and CSL.

Describing her learning curve, Yun acknowledges she initially lacked expertise in techniques like cell cultivation and flow cytometry.

“However, the generosity of the Gray Lab team in sharing their knowledge allowed me to learn and grow independently.”

A memorable milestone was Yun’s first solo flow cytometry experiment, where setbacks morphed into invaluable lessons.

“The supportive environment taught me the essence of continuous learning in experiments.”

Enduring bonds

Yun’s participation in the InSPIRE program has led to enduring connections with fellow InSPIRE students.

“We continue to share experiences, frustrations, and successes, even after returning to China.”

She emphasises the significance of these networks. “Platforms like WeChat and Instagram not only enriched my social circle but also provided crucial support and a sense of camaraderie.”

Transitioning to the University of Iowa, Yan is currently enrolled in the Biomedical Science Program, with plans to specialise in cancer biology in her second year.

“My time at WEHI, particularly in the Gray Lab, profoundly influenced my decision. The potential of research to contribute to advancements in cancer treatment is what excites me the most.”

“Witnessing the impact of basic research on cancer treatment ignited my passion for contributing to this field.”

While family reasons led Yun to the University of Iowa, she remains open to returning to WEHI for postdoctoral research. The overarching goal is clear: “Contribute to advancements in cancer research and make a meaningful impact in the field.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece and WEHI alumna Yun Li, during a visit to City of Melbourne Town Hall.
Above: From left: Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece and Yun Li, InSPIRE students visit to City of Melbourne Town Hall, 2022.

Balancing academic and daily life

Looking ahead, Yun has clear goals for the upcoming year.

“My focus is on dedicated study, building a strong language foundation, and preparing for the PhD qualification exam.”

Simultaneously, she is making plans for integrating into local life in Iowa, addressing practical aspects like obtaining credit cards and a local driver’s license.

“It’s about finding a balance between academic pursuits and daily life necessities.”

Delving into her personal interests, Yun reveals: “Staying physically fit is a priority for me. I enjoy jogging and playing basketball.”

During downtime, she enjoys playing games and watching movies. Expressing a love for nature, Yun shares the joy of observing squirrels in the woods during warm weather as a therapeutic escape.

When asked who she most admired in the world, Yun acknowledges: “Without a doubt, my father is the person I most admire. His passion for nature and science has been a constant source of inspiration. His inquisitive approach and exploration of life’s philosophies have profoundly shaped my understanding of the world.”

As Yun Li embarks on the next chapter of her academic journey at the University of Iowa, she will take with her the experiences and lessons from WEHI. Yun’s journey unveils a relentless pursuit of excellence in cancer biology research, promising a future rich with discoveries and contributions to the scientific community.

Alumna Yun Li photographed at the University of Iowa
Above: Yun Li at the University of Iowa
Yun Li photographed on a lawn with Fudan University visible in the background
Above: Yun Li on graduation day, Fudan University
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