- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Professor Chiu is the newly announced faculty recipient of the 2023 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research.
The three-pronged Chancellor's Award, launched in 1994, annually honors three outstanding mentors: a graduate student; a postdoctoral fellow or project scientist; and a faculty member.
Chiu, who joined the faculty in 2010, focuses her research on the molecular and cellular biology of circadian rhythms and seasonal rhythms.
Doctoral candidate Christine Tabuloc of the Chiu lab--she'll be receiving her PhD this month--nominated her for the award. Five Chiu lab alumni submitted a group letter of recommendation. (See more on Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
A native of Hong Kong and a first-generation college student, Joanna received her bachelor's degree in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Mass., and her doctorate in molecular genetics in 2004 from New York University, New York. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow from 2004 to 2010 in molecular chronobiology at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Chiu joined the Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2010 as an assistant professor, and advanced to associate professor and vice Chair in 2016, and to professor and vice chair in 2021. She was named one of 10 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellows in 2019, a five-year honor awarded to associate professors who excel in research and teaching. The UC Davis Academic Senate honored her with a Distinguished Teaching Award, Graduate/Professional category, in 2022.
Chiu co-founded and co-directs (with Professors Jay Rosenheim and Louie Yang) the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. The program's goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research.
What sparked your interest in science and in your field?
"In a way, maybe to try to escape from their expectations to be a doctor, I applied to attend college in the U.S.. far away from home so I can choose to study what I want. I did not know that research can be a career and I certainly have never ever dreamed of being a professor when I was a college student. I just know I love biological research so I can learn more about the natural world, I love asking questions, and I love the joy of discovery."
"In terms of my lab research focus in animal circadian rhythms, I first learned about this field of research in graduate school from my professors Justin Blau and Todd Holmes at New York University. I learned from them the extensive influence of internal biological clocks on animal physiology and behavior, and I have been hooked since."
What is your teaching/mentoring philosophy?
"As a first-generation college student and U.S. immigrant, I am familiar with the challenges faced by those who pursue a STEM career without a robust support system. This is why I value every opportunity to contribute to teaching and mentoring of diverse scientists and to create a safe space for them to learn and grow. Every student is different so I strive to provide tailored mentoring based on a trainee's learning style and career goals. It is obviously important for my trainees to learn about the scientific process, technical skills necessary for them to complete their research, and the subject matter relevant to their research project. But I feel that it is just as important or perhaps even more important for me to mentor them during their time in my lab so that they can learn about themselves and their career/life goals. I don't mentor my students so that they can all be like me; I guide them so that they can find their own paths."
She admires many teachers/mentors. "One of them is certainly my graduate advisor Professor Gloria Coruzzi. She is not only a very successful scientist, she is also one of the most determined and resilient person I have ever met. To be honest, I don't think I fully appreciated many of the lessons I learned from her until I started my own research program."
"My postdoctoral advisor Isaac Edery is another mentor I admire; he has incredible patience as a mentor and he was the person who made me understand teaching/mentoring is definitely not one size fits all. He is certainly one of the kindest persons I have met."
What are some of your outside interests?
"Outside of my research and my job, I really enjoy spending time with my dogs (Oliver and Kaia are Golden Retrievers and Phoebe is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever). We do conformation, scentwork, obedience, dock diving, retriever training, and are starting to train in agility. I love to learn how to communicate with my dogs through all these activities. They all have different personalities. I also love going to competition and trials with them, meeting other dogs and owners; I really enjoy the camaraderie and we cheer each other on."