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Finding Structure in Life: Fang Tian

Fang Tian

In the next installment of our 2013 BioTechniques Virtual Symposium speaker profile series, we interview Penn State University biochemist Fang Tian. Tian obtained his undergraduate degree from East China Normal University. He then moved to Florida State University for his doctorate and the University of Georgia for a postdoctoral fellowship. Tian’s lab focuses on using NMR approaches and techniques to explore cell membrane biology and biophysics.

How did you get started in science?

It was my curiosity that led me into the field of science, and it is curiosity that continues to drive me to this day.

What is your main research focus?

My lab is mainly interested in understanding both the structure and function of the cell membrane, membrane lipids, and the proteins that are associated with the cell membrane. For these studies, our main technique has been NMR spectroscopy.

How did you get into your current field of study?

My interest in membrane biology and biophysics started during graduate school when I was in the lab of Dr. Tim Cross at Florida State University.

For you, what is the most exciting open question in your field at the moment?

For me, one of the most interesting questions at the moment is the molecular basis for generating, maintaining, and regulating membrane geometry. We are working on this now, and it is a topic I will be discussing during my talk at the virtual symposium.

Since BioTechniques is a methods journal, what do you see as the most pressing method need in your field?

Returning to the most exciting open question, in order to study membrane geometry more effectively and efficiently, there is a great need at the moment for new systems that are capable of modeling diverse membrane geometries. In this way, the structural and molecular bases of these geometries can be studies more effectively.

What suggestions or recommendations do you have for scientists starting their careers now?

My main recommendation would be that young scientists always think about the big picture and try to be as creative as possible in their approach to science as well as in their experiments.

You are a speaker at the 2013 BioTechniques Virtual Sympoisum. What are you looking forward to about presenting at this symposium?

Aside from learning more about cutting edge science and methods from other speakers and attendees, I am also very interested in experiencing this virtual conference as a presenter.

What do you think about the concept of virtual education in general?

Although I have participated in several other virtual presentations in the past, this is my first virtual presentation at a conference of this scale. Personally, I think the concept of virtual education will become an increasingly important learning tool for students and scientists in the coming years. I strongly support this educational concept.

If you are curious to learn more about Fang Tian’s upcoming presentation at the Virtual Symposium, or in learning more about other speakers scheduled for this year’s conference, visit

Keywords:  Profile