Wiess School of Natural Sciences
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Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Earth Science
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Physics & Astronomy

Yu-Chang Tsai

Graduate Student
Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Yu-chang photoYu-Chang Tsai, a native of Taiwan, is a graduate student in Rice University’s Biochemistry & Cell Biology department. He is a member of Dr. Janet Braam’s lab focused on plant responses to the environment. Yu-Chang joined Dr. Braam’s lab because, he states, “my long-term goal is to solve global food scarcity.”

When asked to describe his research in detail, Yu-Chang enthusiastically answers, “I am interested in how plants sense different environment stimuli, like touch, temperature, water, or light. I use Arabidopsis as my model system. In plant or animal, Ca2+ acts as a secondary messenger and Ca2+ signaling can be interpreted by calmodulin. My research is focused on calmodulin-like (CML) proteins, CML23 and CML24. To dissect the physiological functions of these potential Ca2+ sensors, I investigate the phenotypes of cml23 and cml24 mutants. Preliminary results suggest that CML23 and CML24 may play a role in regulation of flowering time. Elucidation of how Ca2+-binding proteins may contribute to plant responses to environmental stress may lead to insights into how to improve crop growth properties and yield.”

Dr. Braam, Professor and chair of the Biochemistry & Cell Biology department, reflects on Yu-Chang’s involvement in her research: “Yu-Chang is the kind of student everyone loves to have in their lab. He cares deeply about the research, about getting the right answer. He reads the literature; he thinks creatively, he works incessantly. Yu-Chang has the intellectual capacity and technical talents to be a very successful scientist. I am very lucky to have him in my lab.”

Why Rice? He answers, “Rice has a very good academic reputation. After I visited the campus and talked to the people in the department, I knew this was the right place for me to start my graduate training,” he says. And Yu-Chang loves Houston, too, adding, “Houston is a very friendly place for a foreigner to start his life in the United States. I can always find different activities. A ball game, a Broadway show and even sky diving sites are only a couple miles from Houston. The weather is also much better than the northern United States during the winter, and if I need to attend a conference in another city, it’s very easy to fly there directly.”

Yu-Chang holds B.S./M.S. degrees in Agronomy from National Taiwan University, granted in 2000 and 2004, respectively. When not on campus, Yu-Chang enjoys watching movies, playing tennis and volleyball, and playing the violin.