Q&A with PhD candidate Miao Xu

Monday, September 30, 2013
PhD candidate Miao Xu
PhD candidate Miao Xu

We are proud to welcome PhD candidate Miao Xu (MD, MSc) to the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (LMP). She is the recipient of a prestigious 2013-14 Ontario Trillium Scholarship, which is worth $160,000 over four years and presented to only 15 University of Toronto graduate students each year.

Xu earned her MD at the School of Pharmacy, Shandong University, China and she completed her MSc at the same university in the Department of Hematology. She is currently working with LMP Professor Heyu Ni (MD, PhD) at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital.

What are you researching during your PhD? I will be working in hematology and will be conducting research on a bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). Prof. Ni recommended a topic for my PhD based on new findings in ITP which are very important in explaining the mechanism of this complex disease.

Prof. Ni’s lab is also known for examining the processes in thrombosis. His findings on the adhesion of platelets in hemostasis really interest me. If there’s an opportunity, I would like to learn more about the physiology of platelets. These two major directions are both very interesting and promising. Maybe they will both become my topics during my PhD.  

Why are you interested in this area of research? I first chose hematology as my major at Shandong University, where I studied under my supervisors  Dr. Ming Hou and Dr. Jun Peng  in the Department of Hematology. They both focused on the mechanism and therapy of ITP. Over time, my supervisors helped me understand this complicated area.

A lot of people are attracted by complicated research, but some people don’t want the challenge. When I learn something, I want to know more. Immunology itself is very intriguing, let alone ITP which is such a heterogeneous autoimmune disease. I’m inspired by the questions, unsolved problems and the search for the truth.

Why did you select Prof. Heyu Ni as a supervisor? Prof. Ni was invited to give a presentation at Shandong University. The topic was about the physiology and immunology of platelets and he presented a lot of interesting data. I called my family and told my parents that I wanted to apply to the University of Toronto and join his team. Afterward, I also found out that his team is highly productive and competitive. Prof. Ni is very energetic and enthusiastic about his research.  I thought training in his lab would improve my logical thinking and research skills, so I selected him, and fortunately he also chose me.  

After obtaining your MD degree, why did you want to pursue research? Being a doctor is very respected; however, I want to figure out why some diseases act the way they do and understand clinical practice and research at a deeper level.

What do you do in your spare time? I like to ride my bike and have several 80-100 mile rides planned. I love to travel and broaden my horizons. 

I also like writing Chinese calligraphy, taking photos, participating in some sports, seeing movies and chatting with friends. Volunteer work is an important part of my life and I enjoy helping others.  

What are you most looking forward to while living in Canada? I’m looking forward to the high-quality education and PhD training. I’m also hoping that I can adapt to Toronto quickly and get used to the cultural differences. I think that it will be an exciting place to live.  

What are your plans for the future? This is a "big" question. For the immediate future, I plan to work hard to complete my PhD degree. As for the distant future, I want to become a little stone in the road of science. I hope that what I discover can broaden our knowledge and I want to improve people’s quality of life. Scientific research is a noble career and I’m looking forward to pursuing it!