Lily Jan

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Lily Yeh Jan (Chinese: 葉公杼; pinyin: Yè Gōngzhù; Wade–Giles: Yeh Kung-chu;[1] born January 20, 1947) is a Chinese-American neuroscientist. She is Jack and DeLoris Lange Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, where she works together with her husband Yuh Nung Jan at the Jan Lab.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Jan was born Yeh Kung-chu (Ye Gongzhu) in Fuzhou, China to two accountants, Yeh Hong-shu and Lee Chuan-hwa. In 1949, her family moved to Taiwan, where she grew up.[2][3] She attended Taipei First Girls' High School where she was first drawn to science. She was inspired by the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics awarded to Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang as well as the experimental physicist Chien Shiung Wu.[2]

Jan attended National Taiwan University where she earned a BS in physics in 1968, before moving on to start her graduate studies in theoretical physics at Caltech. Two years later, in 1970, she was inspired by her thesis adviser, Max Delbrück (winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize) to change her field of study to biology. After graduating in 1974, she and her husband Yuh Nung took summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor before starting her postdoc in neurogenetics at Caltech under Seymour Benzer.[2] In 1977, she decided to pursue a second postdoc experience in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School with Stephen Kuffler and investigated how peptides can function as neurotransmitters.[3][4] She and her husband joined the faculty at UCSF in 1979 where they set up a joint lab, and she has been an HHMI investigator since 1984.[2]

Jan Lab[edit]

Jan and her husband joined the faculty as assistant professors at UCSF in 1979 where they set up a joint lab. The two investigators only got $15,000 a piece in start-up money and 1,000ft2 to share to set up their lab, but were drawn to UCSF by the people and the atmosphere.[2]

They began research in Shaker cloning and neural development studies and were tenured in 1983. The Jans collaborated on the neural development studies in the 1980s with Alain Ghysen and Christine Dambly-Chaudiere. From 1983-1986 they found that Shaker cloning was hard work and their research suffered a dry spell, but despite their research stalling, they were selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators in 1984 and maintain that title still. In 1987, they began to see breakthroughs in their research. They found Shaker cloning to enable studies of potassium channels one at a time. In their neural development research, they had breakthroughs in neurogenesis and cell fate specification (cut, numb, atonal, and daughterless). From 1994 until the present, the function group of the lab has focused on Numb and asymmetric cell division, and since 1998 the developmental group has been doing research on dendrite morphogenesis.[2]

In 2006 and 2016, the Jan Lab hosted a symposium in celebration of the Jans’ 60th and 70th birthdays and had over 75 former lab members and 40 current members in attendance.[2]

Family life[edit]

In 1967, Jan traveled to Shitou, Taiwan for a hiking trip to celebrate her college graduation; this trip resulted in her meeting Yuh-Nung and the beginning of their relationship. In 1971, Lily and Yuh-Nung married with a simple ceremony in a Los Angeles courthouse. [2]

A daughter was born to the Jans on August 6, 1977 and named Emily Huan-Ching Jan. In September of the same year, the Jan family moved across the country from Pasadena, California to Boston, Massachusetts. A few years later, they had a son on November 7, 1984 named Max Huang-Wen Jan after the Jans’ Ph.D. adviser, Max Delbruck.[2]



  1. ^ "葉公杼 Lily Yeh Jan" (in Chinese). Academia Sinica. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j [1][dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Jans' Autobiography and Lab History". Jan Lab, UCSF. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  4. ^ "Lily Y. Jan, PhD". Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
  5. ^, National Academy of Sciences -. "Lily Jan". Retrieved 6 November 2018.