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Wistar has an amazing history of helping people: A conversation with Dr. Wujuan Zhang, Managing Director of Metabolomics and Lipidomics Core Facility 

February 20, 2024

Dr. Wujuan Zhang, shown fourth from left in photo above, recently joined Wistar’s Metabolomics and Lipidomics Core Facility. We spoke to her about her background, her career path, and how she celebrates Lunar New Year.

You were previously at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. What led you to Wistar?

I was recruited in August to be the Managing Director of Metabolomics and Lipidomics Core, after 16 years working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). I’m very excited to work with Dr. Aaron Goldman, who is the scientific director and a well-rounded biologist, and other members of the team, each with a unique set of expertise to continue our efforts of building a stronger Metabolomics and Lipidomics program. We strive to provide the best service we can to our top-notch researchers at Wistar and surrounding cancer centers and academic universities.

This new role gives me more opportunities to interact with people, to learn, grow and make an impact. I continually strive to gain new knowledge and wisdom wherever I can.

How does working at The Wistar Institute differ from your experience at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital?

Even though I may have shifted away from the clinic field in which my work has been involved in a lot of clinic tests for patients and managing bioanalytical arm of clinical studies, it’s all connected. The early-stage discovery research that we do here leads to therapies that eventually benefit the patient. Wistar has an amazing history of helping people worldwide – even my children! – through things like the MMR vaccine and others. None of those things would be possible without the work that Wistar researchers have done. It all starts here, and I am honored to join the team.

What have your initial impressions been of the culture at Wistar?

Right away I noticed that it is a very collaborative environment. Because it’s a middle-sized research organization, it’s easy to establish great working relationships with researchers and labs. I really want to make a lasting contribution to science – that’s my goal.

You and your family currently reside in Cincinnati. How do you manage such a long commute?

I go home every two weeks to be with my family. I try my best to balance work and family. I’m very focused when I’m here, but when I’m home, I’m focused on my family and enjoy time with them. I have three children – one 11-year-old, one 13-year-old, and one 17-year-old – and I teach them the same thing: focus on your homework, and then go play and have fun. That way, there are no distractions.

My oldest daughter applied for both Drexel and Penn, so hopefully she will be closer to me. Long term – maybe in two or three years, when my middle child is ready for college – we’ll think about moving together. My husband is very supportive and helps manage the family while I’m away.

You’re originally from China. What has your path looked like?

My hometown is three hours driving distance of Lanzhou, a city in the northwest region of China. I came to Cleveland, Ohio in 2001 to get my Ph.D. work done, then worked at Cincinnati Children’s. Now I’m in Philadelphia exploring multiple opportunities. You have to seek them out.

There are so many different cultures here, but we have so much in common. We may come from different places, but at the core, we’re all the same. I try to be open to learn from other people and their unique experiences. It really helps to understand other people when you are up close and speaking to them.

Will you celebrate the Lunar New Year with your family?

Yes! During the Lunar New Year, it’s very important to connect with family. Dumplings signify love, so that definitely will be an important dish to put on the dinner table along with many other yummy foods. In the United States, we only have small celebrations, throw parties to connect with friends and neighbors. In China, we used to get two weeks off and celebrate. It starts on the first day of Lunar New Year and ends with the Lantern Festival, which signifies the end of the

Lunar New Year. We light small lanterns and let them float into the sky or hang on our houses for decoration. It’s a very beautiful scene.