Meet Dr. Wei Yan

Written by Pamela Monahan and Dawit Tesfaye in Celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month

In celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage month, Diversity Committee members Dr. Pamela Monahan and Dr. Dawit Tesfaye virtually sat down with University of California Los Angeles Professor and Senior Investigator at The Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation, Dr. Wei Yan.

Dr. Wei Yan is a Professor of Medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a Senior Investigator at The Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Yan received his MD from China Medical University in 1990 and Ph.D. from the University of Turku, Finland, in 2000. He did his post-doc training at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. Dr. Yan works on genetic and epigenetic control of fertility and the epigenetic contribution of gametes (sperm and eggs) to fertilization, early embryonic development, and adulthood health. Dr. Yan has so far published >150 peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters in high-impact journals with >10,400 citations.

Dr. Yan has received numerous academic awards, including the 2009 Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) Young Investigator Award, the 2012 American Society of Andrology (ASA) Young Andrologist Award, the 2013 Nevada Healthcare Hero Award for Research and Technology, the 2017 University of Nevada, Reno Outstanding Researcher Award, the 2018 SSR Research Award and the 2020 Nevada System of Higher Education Research Award. Dr. Yan was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2017. In 2020, Dr. Yan joined The Lundquist Institute to direct the newly established National Center for Male Reproductive Epigenomics. Dr. Yan served as co-Editor-in-Chief of Biology of Reproduction, the official journal of the SSR between 2017 and 2021. For more information please visit the Yan lab website:

Can you talk a little bit about yourself, where are you from? What first attracted you to the world of science? And how did you get to be in your current position?

I was born and grew up in the Northeast of China. After finishing medical school, I “suddenly” realized that I liked research more than seeing patients. So, I decided to do a Ph.D. to better equip myself for doing research. I spent five years pursuing my Ph.D. at the University of Turku in Finland. In 2001, I moved to Houston, TX and did my post-doc training at Baylor College of Medicine with Dr. Martin Matzuk. I started my independent research in 2004 and spent the next 16 years at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine before I moved to LA and joined The Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA in 2020. Since childhood, I have been curious about nature and life. Curiosity leads to enthusiasm and passion, which may explain why I found research more fun than clinical practice after med school.

What impact has the pandemic had on your daily activities and your research?

The pandemic had a huge impact on me; it changed my daily routines and allowed me to slow down a bit and think and reflect. Despite relocation and two lockdowns, my lab managed to operate. Although we all experienced the so-called “Zoom fatigue”, it allowed us to invite many normally hard-to-get, high-caliber speakers to talk in our Center’s seminar series.

Have you gained any valuable lessons from life during the pandemic?

Sure. Many lessons were learned. The biggest one, to me, is to realize that nothing can replace in-person interactions.

What are you most excited to do over the next year?

Of course, to go to meetings and meet up with colleagues.

What words of inspiration would you like to share with the future generation of scientists?

Never claim “novel” before consulting with your senior colleagues. Focus on biology, not technology.

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