A new perspective on research

Liangning Lu reflects on experiences and insights from BTI and University of Tokyo research exchange program.

By Lance Janssen

As part of an ongoing academic exchange program, colleagues from the BioTechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota and the University of Tokyo have worked together to further their research and teaching efforts since 2017. In addition to sharing research as well as hosting symposia, the exchange also brings the opportunity for graduate students to do research and train at each others’ institutions. Liangning Lu, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, is a participant in the exchange program, conducting research with Dr. Satoshi Ishii at the U of M. We recently caught up with Lu to hear more about her time in the Twin Cities. 

What are you currently working on?
In Dr. Ishii’s lab, my current focus is on applying molecular biology techniques to better understand the mechanisms of two important steps in denitrification. I am particularly fascinated by the study of denitrifying microorganisms because N2O, as a greenhouse gas, poses a threat to the environment, and these emissions mostly originate from soil microorganisms.  

What interested you in coming to the University of Minnesota to do research?
Choosing the University of Minnesota for my research was driven by its outstanding reputation in the field of soil agronomy. The collaborative and innovative environment here aligns perfectly with my research interests. Additionally, the well-established experimental fields and faculty resources available at the University further informed my decision.

What part of your experience has stood out the most? What’s been the most challenging?
The most standout aspect of my experience has been the application of micro-sensor technology for simultaneous measurement of N2O and O2. This technique ingeniously achieves a simple and high-throughput detection of N2O. On the flip side, one of the most challenging aspects has been applying molecular biology principles to disrupt genes in microorganisms. This process involves many meticulous steps, and the need for precision in each step has given me a profound appreciation for rigorous scientific inquiry.  

What about this experience do you think is unique for visiting researchers?
What makes this experience unique for visiting scholars is that this academic visit not only facilitated meaningful academic exchange and provided me with a wealth of knowledge, but also included extensive cultural interactions. It provided me with a more comprehensive understanding of the open and egalitarian academic atmosphere in the United States, which greatly enhanced the richness of my research journey.