Yu-Ying Phoebe Hsieh


Phoebe is originally from Taiwan. She grew up in Hsinchu, a northern city famous for her all-year-round wind in Taiwan. She later moved to Taipei for her undergraduate and master studies. As an undergraduate student in National Yang-Ming University, she worked in the lab of Dr. Gwo-Jen Liaw to study transcriptional regulation during fly embryogenesis. For her master training, she joined the lab of Dr. Jun-Yi Leu in Academia Sinica, where she used budding yeast as a model system to dissect the molecular mechanisms by which a chaperone protein, Hsp90, buffers phenotypic consequences from genetic or non-genetic variations. Phoebe’s research experiences in the Leu lab sparked her interest in evolution. She decided to go abroad for an advanced training in understanding biology via both molecular and evolutionary perspectives.

Phoebe conducted her doctoral research in the lab of Dr. Andrew Murray at Harvard University. With the power of yeast genetics and experimental evolution, her doctoral work aimed to address how a novel biological function arises in evolution. A biological function, such as chromosome replication or segregation, is the result of a group of collectively acting proteins and is often modified or innovated in evolution. Phoebe focused on chromosome segregation and two anciently duplicated kleisin proteins that determine mitosis or meiosis separately in eukaryotes. She evolved budding yeast cells to use the meiotic kleisin (a wrong protein) for mitosis and asked which mutations, either in the meiotic kleisin or elsewhere of the yeast genome, allow cells to adapt the meiotic kleisin to a modified biological function (mitosis). She discovered that most of mutations are outside of the meiotic kleisin, especially in proteins of functional modules that don’t directly participate in chromosome segregation. Her work suggests that genetic targets for altering a conserved biological function during evolution are not restricted to the known proteins that directly participate in that function.

In the Malik lab, Phoebe is interested in the conflict between fungal and bacterial pathogens. Certain fungal and bacterial pathogens deploy various strategies to antagonize each other or compete for scarce nutrients while co-existing at several infection sites of human. It remains unclear about the genetic repertory shaping the cross-kingdom antagonisms and their evolutionary consequences. Guiding by the genetic conflict hypothesis, Phoebe will apply the experimental evolution and functional genomics approaches to unravel unknown antagonistic genes between fungal and bacterial pathogens and investigate the influence of antagonistic co-evolution on the microbial genomes.

In her spare time, Phoebe enjoys cooking various cuisines, making pottery, jogging, swimming, and reading. Phoebe likes water a lot; living in Seattle has been very pleasant to her as she enjoys watching tranquil and expansive scenes when jogging around the waterfronts.