First Person is a series of interviews with the first authors of a selection of papers published in Biology Open, helping early-career researchers promote themselves alongside their papers. Yunlong Li is first author on ‘The ATPase TER94 regulates Notch signalling during Drosophila wing development’, published in BiO. Yunlong is a graduate student in the lab of Junzheng, Zhang at China Agricultural University, Beijing, P. R. China, investigating the regulatory mechanisms of developmental signalling pathways in Drosophila melanogaster.
What is your scientific background and the general focus of your lab?
I hold a Bachelor's degree of Science in Agriculture. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Department of Entomology, College of Plant Protection, China Agricultural University. Mentored by Dr Junzheng Zhang, I am in my third year of the Master's degree program. Our lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanism of insect organ development.
How would you explain the main findings of your paper to non-scientific family and friends?
All insects have wings and the formation of wings is controlled by a group of genes. We found one such gene that is required for wing formation in fruit flies, and possibly for many other insects.
What are the potential implications of these results for your field of research?
We found that the TER94 ATPase was as a novel regulator of the Notch signalling pathway in Drosophila, thus it reveals a novel role of TER94 in development.
What has surprised you the most while conducting your research?
The fact that Drosophila TER94 is able to regulate the activity of multiple signalling pathways, potentially through distinct co-factors.
What, in your opinion, are some of the greatest achievements in your field and how has this influenced your research?
For me, the greatest achievements in developmental biology includes the discovery of signalling pathway crosstalk and the establishment of FLP-FRT system in Drosophila. We are able to dissect the function of vital genes in organ development by the FLP-FRT system. And we are beginning to appreciate that no signalling pathway plays a solo role during development, as more and more factors are found to regulate multiple pathways simultaneously.
What changes do you think could improve the professional lives of early-career scientists?
Three things: (1) the government and relevant departments should set up a number of foundations to provide funds for scientific research and teaching activities for young scientific researchers, (2) the schools should free early-career scientists from pointless meetings to focus on science, and (3) independent critical thinking needs to be cultivated in young scientists.
What's next for you?
Hopefully, I can pursue my doctorate degree in one of the world's top universities.
Yunlong Li's contact details: China Agricultural University, No. 2 Yuanmingyuan West Road, Beijing, P. R. China, 100193.