On this page:

My Background

Past and present clients

Portfolio

Links


My Background

I didn’t set out to be a writer, certainly not one who writes in English. I wanted to be a scientist instead. Of course, that’s what I always wanted to be. Ever since I was little, I have been told that I have an inquisitive mind and ask good questions. “Surely signs of a to-be scientist,” they would say. With a mother in medical profession and a father in bioethics and philosophy of science, it had never occurred to me that there was anything else I would have liked to do but to be a scientist.

So I went ahead and abroad. At the age of 18, I left Beijing for the University of Essex, England, to study biology—with a great sense of adventure but hardly any English. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and went on to do a Ph.D at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, Scotland. While discovering the European culture and enjoying the enchanting Scottish landscape and amiable hospitality of the people, the seed of doubts was sowed during this period of time.

But I did not take it seriously until having spent six years as a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience—first at the City University of New York and then at King’s College London. That was my first mid-life crisis. I knew I couldn’t go on. But I had no idea what else I could or would like to do. I had never thought of any other career alternatives. Then one day, I came across a story of a prisoner-turned prison correspondent and my life was changed forever.

A habitual thief, Eric Allison had spent most of his life behind bars. He had not work for 40 years and suddenly, at the age of 60, started a new career as the first prison correspondent of the Guardian newspaper. Over the years and during his countless trips in and out of detention, Allison had become an activist advocating for prison conditions and campaigning issues on racism and abuse in prison. After writing endless petitions and campaign leaflets, he realised that he got a similar buzz from writing as he did from stealing. I almost cried out: “That’s me! That’s exactly how I feel!” Well, not the buzz from stealing, of course. But the buzz from writing and the astonishing things one can do with words.

So that was the beginning of my love affair with writing. To get an idea of the basics of the industry, I did an evening class in freelance journalism. Tim Radford at the Guardian and Mark Henderson at the Times kindly took me on and offered me the wonderful opportunity to see journalism in action—utterly intimidating but infinitely exhilarating. I started pitching stories and writing for the BioMedNet, Economist, Irish Times and Nature—as a hobby—while I was a research scientist at King’s College London and then an associate editor at Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

It soon became clear that writing is a calling I could not resist and that I need the freedom to explore my interest and potential as a writer—not only as a science writer but as a writer and commentator who may be able to bridge the gap between China and the rest of the world to some extent. China is going through an interesting period of development. There isn’t a single day passed without reports about China in the world media. But to most non-Chinese, China remains a gigantic enigma. As a result of this lack of understanding, many reports about China are superficial and simplistic. I aim to present China to the world in more realistic terms.   

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, watching plays, seeing art exhibitions, walking along the river Thames and wandering around the Summer Palace. I have recently taken on photography, so I could tell stories about China not only in words but through pictures.


Past and present clients:

Economist
Nature
New Scientist

Lancet Neurology
Lancet Oncology

Chemistry World (UK)
China Daily

BBC News website
Guardian

Irish Times

Nature Reviews Neuroscience

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery

Diagnostic Imaging Europe

Science Museum's Dana Centre (UK)
British Neuroscience Association
Journal of Experimental Biology

BioMedNet


Portfolio:

2007

Butterflies of the soul, British Neuroscience Association News Bulletin, spring 2007

Debates on translational research: a balancing act, Lancet Neurology, March 2007

Neuroeconomics: The triumph of unreason? Economist, 11 January 2007

Interview: The blue revolutionary, New Scientist, 6 January 2007

Opinion: Laws are not enough for environmental miracle, China Daily, 4 January 2007. Read the article on my website

2006

Animal research: Mighty mouse, News Feature, Nature, 14 December, 2006

Stem cells: An appointment with chance, Economist, 30 November 2006. Read the article on my website

Cell biology of the neuron: Shootin1 for the axon, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, December 2006

Synaptic physiology: Making connections through MeCP2, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, December 2006

Infant pain: Does it hurt? News Feature, Nature, 9 November, 2006. Read the article on my website

Psychiatric disorders: Depression gene in action, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, November 2006

Epigenetics: Learning without learning, Economist, 21 September 2006 Read the article on my website

Is the end in sight for Sony’s laser blues? Guardian, 14 September 2006

Shedding light on the world, BBC News website, 8 September 2006 Read the article on my website

Top prize for ‘light’ inventor, BBC News website, 8 September 2006

Radiology: Your bosom buddy, Economist, 10 August 2006

Phantom limb and chronic pain: A hall of mirrors, Economist, 20 July 2006 Read the article on my website

Open access: One size does not fit all, British Neuroscience Association News Bulletin, summer 2006

Epigenome: Unfinished symphony, News Feature, Nature, 11 May 2006 Read the article on my website

Neurobiology: Garlic sensation, Research Highlights, Nature, 30 March 2006

Cancer: Deadly decisions, Research Highlights, Nature, 23 March 2006

Neurobiology: Astrocytes’ starring role, Research Highlights, Nature, 23 March 2006

Neurobiology: Some nerve, Research Highlights, Nature, 2 February 2006

Battle of the wills, British Neuroscience Association News Bulletin, spring 2006

2005

The human epigenome: Life story, the sequel, Economist, 20 December 2005

Regeneration: A new stop signal, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, December 2005

Neurogenetics: Fear not, Economist, 24 November 2005.

Ornithology: Flight of navigators, News Feature, Nature, 6 October 2005. Read the article on my website

Animal behaviour: Chicken little, Research Highlights, Nature, 1 September 2005

Neuroscience: Underlying Alzheimer’s, Research Highlights, Nature, 25 August 2005

Fish sing, fish hear, Journal of Experimental Biology, 15 August 2005

Treating depression: 50 years on, and still no progress? British Neuroscience Association News Bulletin, spring 2005

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 13 January 2005

2004

Printer forensics: Band aid, Economist, 28 October 2004. Read the article on my website

Aquaculture: The fishing fields, Economist, 9–15 October 2004

Craving food: it’s all in the brain, Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 22 September 2004

Playing the gene game, the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 9 September 2004

The sweet challenge, Journal of Experimental Biology, 1 September 2004

Spine injuries may benefit from depression drug, Irish Times, 26 August 2004

Why divers have diminutive wings? Journal of Experimental Biology, 1 August 2004

To be or not to be…, British Neuroscience Association News Bulletin, summer 2004

The green toy land at Dana, the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 22 July 2004

In search of our inner savant, the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 24 June 2004

Science and comedy: an unlikely marriage made in heaven? the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 8 June 2004

Nanomedicine: A bunch of rosettes, Economist, 3 June 2004

Material science: Light, and magic, Economist, 20 May 2004

Marathon: a battle of body and mind, the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, 15 April 2004

Multiple Sclerosis: Weapons of sheath destruction, Economist, 11 March 2004

Fear and loathing in the unconscious, Irish Times, 4 March 2004. Read the article on my website

Improve or impair: a bedtime story, News & Feature, BioMedNet, 19 February 2004

2003

Prion proteins: A new twist in the tale, Economist, 30 December 2003

Emotion and memory: Thanks for no memory, Economist, 13 November 2003. Read the article on my website

Therapeutic cloning in Parkinsonian mice, Research Update, BioMedNet, 30 October 2003

Untangling the genetics of dyslexia, News & Feature, BioMedNet, 29 October 2003

When seeing is not believing, News & Feature, BioMedNet, 27 October 2003

Semaphorin and integrin interaction in angiogenesis, Research Update, BioMedNet, 1 September 2003

Semaphorin and integrin in promoting axon growth, Research Update, BioMedNet, 28 August 2003

A novel signaling receptor for GDNF, Research Update, BioMedNet, 31 July 2003

Radial glia and CNS development, Research Update, BioMedNet, 26 March 2003


Links

Economist
http://www.economist.com/

Nature
http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html

New Scientist
http://www.newscientist.com/home.ns

Lancet Neurology
http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home
/622235/descriptio#description

Lancet Oncology
http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_
home/621215/description#description

Chemistry World (UK)
http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2007/February/index.asp

China Daily
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/

BBC News website
http://news.bbc.co.uk/

Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/

Irish Times
http://www.ireland.com/

Nature Reviews Neuroscience
http://www.nature.com/nrn/index.html

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery
http://www.nature.com/nrd/index.html

Diagnostic Imaging
http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/

Journal of Experimental Biology
http://jeb.biologists.org/

Science Museum (UK)
http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/

Dana Centre (UK)
http://www.danacentre.org.uk/

British Neuroscience Association
http://www.bna.org.uk/

Nature Publishing Group                          
http://www.nature.com/index.html

Elsevier Ltd.
http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/

Royal Society of Chemistry (UK)
http://www.rsc.org/

Company of Biologist
http://www.biologists.com/web/index.html