Yu Xia is Chemistry’s newest faculty member, but her association with the department spans the past decade. After receiving a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica Chinese Academy of Sciences, she came to Purdue in 2002 to pursue her doctorate, joining Professor Scott McLuckey’s research group.
“Yu had no background at all with instrumentation when she joined the group, but quickly became a master of some pretty sophisticated tools,” McLuckey recalls. “I developed a strong interest in gas-phase ion/ion reactions in linear ion traps applied to protein analysis,” Xia says.
That same year, Professor Xia met her future husband, Zheng Ouyang, who was just finishing his Ph.D. in Professor Graham Cooks’ research group. “The Wetherill basement is not the most romantic location to meet your future spouse,” she laughed. They married in 2004 and welcomed the birth of their daughter, Ruohua Ouyang, last year.
With her husband working as an assistant professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Professor Xia says becoming new parents and balancing careers at Purdue has been demanding. “In some way, it’s similar to research – exciting and challenging,” she explained.
Professor Xia’s research is focused on developing new ways to analyze proteins and carbohydrates using mass spectrometry. “With our method, we can provide detailed knowledge on the structure of a biomolecule with faster speed and consuming fewer samples,” she says.
The daughter of a high school chemistry teacher, Professor Xia's interest in chemistry was triggered early in life. "I remember vividly how thrilled I was when my father would hand me balloons filled with hydrogen he made from mixing zinc peels (from old battery) with acid," she recalled.
"I always wanted to be a researcher in chemistry. Ph.D. training seems to be a natural pathway and the chemistry program at Purdue has a very good reputation and I was very lucky to be admitted," she says.
Growing up in China, Professor Xia has a unique perspective on chemistry education there and in the U.S. "College chemistry education is quite similar between the two countries. However, the college students were much better prepared after high school in China," she says.
She is particulary excited about the connections Purdue is making in China. "Purdue has always been one of the U.S. universities with a large number of students from China and strong interactions have been established between Purdue and multiple institutes in China," she notes.
"The recent US-China analytical chemistry workshop held at Purdue by Professors Cooks and Ouyang is the kind of activities that would bring the interactions to the next level and results in collaborations at a level more formal and of larger scale," Xia says.
Xia Research Group
Source: Chemistry Communications
Ph.D. Purdue, 2006