“Even though he is a world-renowned scientist — including being the recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Science (the highest honor that the U.S. can bestow upon a researcher) — Shu Chien is also known for mentoring a generation of high school, undergraduate and graduate students research, which speaks volumes about his dedication to science. He is also respected for his willingness to collaborate with colleagues across science and academic disciplines to solve research problems. Born in Beijing, China, Shu grew up in Shanghai and was a pre-med student at National Peking University when he and his family fled to Taiwan in 1949 during the turmoil of the Communist takeover of China. From Taiwan he later moved to the U.S. where he furthered his pursuits in science and bioengineering.
Why He’s Important: Shu is a world leader in the study of how blood flow and pressure affect blood vessels. His research has led to the development of better diagnostic tests and therapy for atherosclerosis, which refers to the hardening of the arteries, and other diseases. Shu’s work has had tremendous impact in the field of cardiovascular physiology and bioengineering, including shedding light on why atherosclerotic lesions form preferentially at branches of coronary arteries.
Other Achievements: Some of his more recent work has focused on the effects of mechanical forces – pressure and flow – on cellular functions such as gene expression. His research has shown how the mechanical forces generated by circulating blood affect the functions of endothelial cells in health and disease. Endothelial cells line the interior surface of the body’s blood vessels throughout the circulatory system.
Current Activities: Shu is professor of bioengineering and medicine at the University of California at San Diego, and director of university’s Institute of Engineering in Medicine.
Education: He received his medical degree from National Taiwan University and his Ph.D. in Physiology from Columbia University, where he served as professor from 1969 to 1988. During a sabbatical from 1987 to 1988, he founded Taiwan’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Academia Sinica.
In His Own Words: “In the end, it’s the people that matter: the teachers in elementary, middle and high schools, the professors in higher education and the students and researchers at all levels.”
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