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Zeng Fanyi: Best of Both Worlds

Updated: Apr 7

Hello everyone! I'm Tina and this is Women Weekly, where I post about one wonderful woman in the STEM field every Friday.

With this article, starting with the letter Z, we are reaching the end of this series. Writing all 26 of these has been a journey, one that has helped me overcome my fear of writing while teaching me about inspiring women. I would like to thank Campbell Walker, AKA Struthless, for launching the Alphabet Superset, a collective creative project designed to motivate people to create more. Needless to say, the motivation has been effective and although writing these hasn't been easy, I'm going to miss it.

So today, for the last time, I present to you a woman who is spectacular both in science and art – Zeng Fanyi.


Fanyi Zeng was born in 1968 in Shanghai, China. Her father was a geneticist and Fanyi decided to follow in his footsteps. She completed her higher education in the US, earning her baccalaureate from the University of California and her master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She also completed her postdoctoral research at the latter university.

In 2007, Fanyi joined the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) School of Medicine. There, she is currently a distinguished professor, vice-president of the Shanghai Institute of Medical Genetics, and principal investigator in the Department of Histo-Embryology, Genetics and Developmental Biology. Fanyi also works as a secretary-general of the International Stem Cell Foundation and vice-president of the Shanghai Stem Cell Institute. She is a Changjang Scholar, a chief scientist of the National Basic Research Program of China, and director of the Key Lab of Embryo Molecular Biology National Health Commission.

Fanyi's research focuses mainly on human genetics and developmental biology, specifically, the diagnosis and treatment of common genetic diseases, stem cell biology, and preimplantation development.

In 2009, Fanyi co-published a paper for the scientific journal Nature. The core of the research consisted of generating a live mouse, which was the first-ever demonstration that an entire mammalian body could be generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs – pluripotent stem cells generated directly from a somatic cell), at least when it comes to mice. Their process consisted of generating iPSCs from mouse embryos, following the method of stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka. Fusing early-staged fertilized embryos, they created tetraploid ones, which went on to grow into whole healthy mice after their implantation. Healthy were both the mice born as a result of this process, and the offspring of these mice were healthy as well.

Zeng Fanyi is not only an amazing scientist, she also has a voice of gold as a contralto singer. Throughout her life, she has studied with several famous artists, held many solo concerts, and released multiple albums. This combination of two different worlds is very dear to her, as she consistently promotes cultural education to bridge science and arts in her public speeches and annual concerts.






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