Visitor of the Week: Felix Chan


Meet Felix Chan of Brown University. Felix is a postdoctoral research associate in Judy Liu’s lab within the Department of Molecular, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry. He was on campus for three weeks last month participating in the third iteration of the Metabolomics course. 

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My interest is in characterizing the metabolic activity of the brain during physiological and pathological brain activity. Currently, I am working to characterize the link between pathological seizure activity and sleep in the context of tissue metabolism. 

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
The brain is a unique organ with a high metabolic demand - it only takes up about 2% of the body weight but consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen supply. Yet, not much is understood about the metabolic change that occurs in the brain during a period of intense brain activation, whether in a physiological condition (during cognition, for example) or pathological condition (during a seizure, for example). 

How did your scientific journey begin? 
I have always been interested in psychological theories and research, and the leap I took to study neuroscience stems from how the brain -- as a single organ -- can be responsible for many different functions from crude ones like movement, sensation, and speech to fine-tuned ones like emotion, cognition, and perception. I owe my commitment to an academic research career to the many researchers I interacted with as I earned my Masters and PhD in Newcastle University; particularly my graduate mentors Dr. Gavin Clowry and Professor Mark Cunningham

Felix with fellow coursemates Karin Mitosch and Smitha Pillai getting hands-on practice at operating and analyzing liquid chromatography.

Felix with fellow coursemates Karin Mitosch and Smitha Pillai getting hands-on practice at operating and analyzing liquid chromatography.

Was there something specific about the Metabolomics course that drew you to apply?
I was attracted to the course by the wide range of techniques listed on its overview (here); such as GC-MS to LC-MS, and even Seahorse metabolic flux analyzer. In addition to picking up new techniques, I acquired hands-on experience on instrumentation use and data analysis which was really helpful in learning the theory behind the instruments and practical applications of the techniques. 

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
The knowledge and techniques I acquired from the course will be implemented to design a metabolomics experiment to answer my research question regarding metabolic changes in the brain. 

What is your key takeaway from the course?
I came into the course with a naive perception that metabolomics is an all-encompassing technique to dissect metabolism in a comprehensive manner. Whilst it remains a powerful technique, as with other techniques, it cannot measure every metabolite. Careful thought into the experimental design is what can lead to precise measurements of the metabolites in which you are interested. The course has well-equipped me with skills, knowledge, and techniques to consider my experimental design so that it can answer the scientific hypothesis I have in mind. 

How many CSHL courses have you attended?
This is the first CSHL course that I have attended and it hopefully won’t be the last! 

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Come in with an open mind and curiosity to learn about metabolomics. The instructors have worked really hard to design a comprehensive and meaningful course that addresses a wide range of aspects about metabolomics. The course schedule will be intense but with a strong passion in metabolomics, you will get the most out of this course.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I enjoyed the fact that I am learning cool science in a beautiful, serene, and picturesque place that has a rich history in advancing science and technology. You can easily walk around CSHL and see the many evidences of their involvement in advancing biomedical sciences. It helps also that the food served is top-notch and you can eat your meals on a balcony overlooking the beautiful Cold Spring Harbor - never gets old!

Thank you to Felix for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.