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Science stars of China (Nature)   

NANCY IP: Making connections
A neuroscientist explores the brain through basic research and translational medicine.
By Helen Pearson

Nancy Ip has been building bridges for much of her career. Born in Hong Kong, she found her calling in science during a graduate degree studying neurotransmitters at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Then she crossed into the biotechnology industry, where she explored the neurotrophic factors that support neuron survival and growth. She took all that expertise back to her native land in 1993, joining the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) when it was just two years old.

“It was considered bold” to move to a place not known for its research, she says, but she wanted to contribute to the region. And since then, she’s worked to bolster science and biotechnology therethrough her research and leadership. “I sleep very little,” says Ip, who puts in a 12-hour-plus work day and gives credit to her support team. “Time flies when you are doing things that you enjoy.” A lot of that time is spent with her large research group, which spans basic neural biology and translational science for neurological disorders

Ip has witnessed huge transformations since her return: Hong Kong transferred from British to Chinese control in 1997, and she’s seen mainland China’s science scene boom. And Ip is now building bridges to the mainland, where she hopes to further clinical research by accessing large populations of people with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease; training people with expertise in both clinical medicine and research; and playing a leading part in a major brain project being developed in China. “I teach my students, sometimes you don’t know where research will take you.”




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