Since he was younger, Chih-Wei Joshua Liu ’22 often realized he desired to be a “physician-scientist,” pursuing exploration at the intersection of fundamental science and medication.
“Growing up, I needed to do perform that concretely helps men and women,” suggests Liu. “I also required to even more our comprehending of the universe. Physics describes how nature behaves. From equations, we can derive actions. In biology and medication, this behavior is extremely complicated. I have usually questioned how these sciences mix: If we can set nature’s beautiful complexity in the language of arithmetic, then the globe would make sense.”
As the son of a health practitioner / computational biologist, he was exposed early on to a lifetime in investigation. His household moved from Taipei to Dallas, Texas, and the San Francisco Bay Region in advance of returning to Taiwan during his significant faculty years, when his father joined the college at Taiwan’s Nationwide Wellbeing Analysis Institutes.
He competed in the Biology Olympiad although at the Nationwide Experimental Higher University, an international faculty operate by the Taiwanese authorities for overseas-raised young children of Hsinchu Science Park workforce. Hsinchu Science Park facilities on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Firm, which was started by MIT Company board member Morris Chang ’52, SM ’53, ME ’55.
“People at my substantial faculty imagine of MIT as a place in which you can make a big difference in the world,” Liu states. Drawn to the Institute, both of those Liu and his twin brother, Chih-Lun Julian, utilized to MIT. His brother was then far more fascinated in computational linguistics, even though he was drawn to biochemistry and computational biology.
“Much of the most important exploration in condensates has been at MIT,” he says. “I began going to a biomolecular condensate journal club in my to start with semester as a freshman and understood that, to really fully grasp condensates, I wanted statistical thermodynamics. I was let down to find out I could not get pretty considerably without the need of physics.”
Possessing struggled with superior school physics, he was apprehensive about the Institute’s physics Typical Institute Requirements (GIRs). “When I took 8.01 with Professor Kiyoshi Masui, I realized that MIT physics — in particular the globe-well-known TEAL [Technology-Enhanced Active Learning] format employed for 8.01 and 8.02 — is pretty distinctive from a number of-preference AP physics.”
With a sturdy grasp of Newtonian mechanics, he pushed himself to consider the extra difficult observe-up class, 8.022 (Physics II: Energy and Magnetism). From there, he astonished himself by declaring his major as physics.
“The physics GIRs pushed me to branch out academically. I TA’d 8.01 my sophomore yr and appreciated encouraging other college students build expertise and pursuits in physics.”
He shifted away from biomolecular condensates and pursued exploration in other places of biophysics, starting with do the job on an experimental evolution strategy to engineering microbiome therapeutics with Professor Jeff Gore.
“A very long-standing purpose in drugs is the means to tailor microbes to patients’ particular metabolic desires outdoors microbes with probably useful features do not usually endure when inserted into patients’ microbiomes,” he claims. “We developed bacteria isolated from the human intestine to degrade the compound that will cause kidney stones. I discovered this undertaking interesting because we applied mathematical modeling to regulate the evolutionary trajectory of microbes in the lab, as perfectly as to engineer a little something that could have genuine health care applications.”
In 2020, he commenced doing the job with Professor Nikta Fakhri on device-studying approaches for measuring entropy generation in organic techniques.
“Physicists think time irreversibility is a crucial residence of existence organic procedures irrevocably enhance the entropy of the universe,” he suggests. “However, it’s complicated to actually measure irreversibility. We are working with a new machine-studying algorithm to do specifically this. Rho GTPases are a conserved mobile-division regulator in just about all animals, which include people and the starfish we use experimentally. Employing our neural network, we have quantitatively measured the arrow of time in this essential organic procedure Rho is implicated in most cancers, among other diseases.”
He presented this do the job at the March Conference of the American Physical Society, and designs to before long post a joint initial-creator manuscript for overview.
Supporting psychological wellness
“I know a large amount of men and women who have struggled with psychological health challenges,” he suggests. “MIT is a quite stress filled place, and a large amount of people wrestle when they get right here. This is an issue I really desired to get included in.”
This drew him to the urgent issues of mental wellbeing on and off campus.
In the course of the pandemic, he joined the MIT Wellbeing Ambassadors to distribute Covid-19 rules and individual protecting gear to pupils remaining on campus throughout the pandemic. As president of Active Minds and Peer Ears, he led the merger of MIT’s two psychological-wellness peer-education teams, and labored with MIT’s Business office of Student Wellbeing and clinicians at University student Mental Well being and Counseling Expert services to supply undergraduate pupils and companies with energetic listening training.
Very last summer season, as a PKG Social Impact Intern at the Massachusetts Common Clinic (MGH) Department of Psychiatry, he utilized instant smartphone surveys to observe time use in individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum and bipolar-spectrum ailments. By examining the information, he observed the emergence of the outcomes of race and socioeconomic position on operating in people with severe psychological diseases, which he is composing about for the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
“I hope my do the job will enable foreseeable future psychiatrists address racial and socioeconomic inequities in caring for persons with critical psychological sicknesses,” he claims.
In his second job for MGH, he utilized instantaneous smartphone surveys to monitor hallucinations and metacognitive processes in persons with schizophrenia. “Analyzing this data, we have been in a position to substantiate a connection amongst metacognitive problems and hallucinations in folks with schizophrenia,” he suggests. That manuscript will be submitted in June.
For his possess technique of pressure release, in his 1st calendar year he shared his adore of post-hardcore punk rock with a 2 a.m. display on WMBR, right up until he understood it didn’t work with his timetable. He is president of MIT’s Culture of Physics Learners, which organizes occasions for Course 8 undergraduates these types of as study breaks, film evenings, and the yearly PRISM investigate meeting. He has served on the Physics Values Committee, a departmental committee of college, workers, and pupils operating together to enhance underrepresented-scholar recruitment to MIT physics, and to help a lot more inclusive faculty advising.
He was also group support chair and associate member educator at his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta. As community support chair, he sourced 12,000 confront masks from the Taiwanese govt during the 2020 U.S. mask shortage and organized a fundraiser to buy these masks and donate them to Beth Israel Deaconess Health-related Heart. “It has been a person of my defining ordeals at MIT,” he says.
Liu is also an avid hiker and likes to stop by place tide swimming pools to examine maritime invertebrates.
Upcoming quit: Study and MD-PhD
He is implementing to MD-PhD packages to pursue study at the intersection of biostatistics and statistical mechanics. In the meantime, he will continue his investigation in Fakhri’s group, learning not long ago recognized “non-reciprocal” phases of make a difference in drug-resistant microorganisms.
As a long run health practitioner-physicist, Liu hopes to implement the mathematical approaches he picked up in his physics classes to aid individuals struggling with mental health and fitness challenges.
“I hope to apply essential physics to the urgent troubles of human wellness,” he states. “Non-equilibrium thermodynamics has lately demonstrated its probable in basic biology. I feel the very same theoretical framework could be just as insightful in translational drugs.”