Reflecting on 2021

Another year of the pandemic has almost felt like 2020 and 2021 have merged into one. But I am most certainly a year older and hopefully, a little wiser.

Continuing the tradition of reflecting on the year that was (see 2019 and 2020 reflections), here’s a summary of the highlights:

  1. Career
    1. Year 3 of my postdoctoral research fellowship in the Saint-Geniez Lab, further building upon my understanding of extensive field of metabolism, mitochondria, EMT, metabolomics and retinal physiology
    2. Completed my Fight for Sight Postdoctoral Fellowship
    3. Awarded the BrightFocus Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Macular Degeneration Program ($200,000 over 2 years)
    4. Published 4 papers including my first-author original paper on metabolic reprogramming in retinal EMT
    5. Started co-hosting the podcast “Behind Our Science” sponsored by the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) and the Histochemical Society (HCS)
  2. Built my online presence
    1. I now have 12k followers on Instagram and 3.9k followers on Twitter
    2. Wrote 6 blog posts
    3. Featured in the Top 21 STEM Accounts to follow on Instagram by Katrina Wesencraft here.
    4. Wrote blog post for ASIP Pathways Next Gen on “What to read if you’re a scientist”
    5. Wrote blog post on why scientists should Tweet for BBSRC White Rose DTP Communications team. The BBSRC White Rose DTP is a partnership between three universities across Sheffield, Leeds and York, which funds students in the UK ( The Communications team ensures students are up to date with latest training opportunities, highlighting student achievements and provide a platform for science communication. Blog post here.
    6. Featured in a blog post ““SciComm for Dummies”: A beginners guide to communicating scientifically” by communications ambassador Aditi Aiyer in the Australian Society for Microbiology blog here.
    7. Featured on my alma mater UNSW Medicine’s alumni spotlight here.
    8. Featured by ARVO in an interview on my new position as the MIT representative on the ARVO Board of Trustees here.
    9. Featured on ARVO Setting your Sights showcasing a day in my life as a scientist here.
    10. Episode 18 – WazaMedia podcast. Branding – getting started on social media, 18th March 2021 (Link).
    11. Podcast Episodes:
      1. Episode 1 – Behind our Science – Meet the Team Co-host with Roberto Mota Alvidrez and Marina Anastasiou (Link).
      2. Episode 7 – I Belong Here Podcast – Interview with Dr. Daisy Shu (Link).
      3. Episode 2 – Behind our Science – Interview with Dr. Garcia (Link).
      4. Episode 3 – Behind our Science – Celebrating Women in Pathology (Link).
      5. Episode 4 – Behind our Science – Live recording, Mental health awareness (Link).
      6. Episode 5 – Behind our Science – Day in the life of Dr. Monga, 7.3 Questions, Favourite thing in the lab (Link).
      7. Episode 6 – Behind our Science – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (Link).
      8. Mini-episode – Behind our Science – Interview with Dr. Melanie Scott on her experiences at the FASEB Capitol Hill Day and the importance of science advocacy (Link).
      9. Episode 7 – Behind our Science – Happy Holidays and Favourite Christmas Thing in the Lab (Link).
  3. Academic Activities
    1. Invited reviewer for Experimental Eye Research (3 papers), Acta Ophthalmologica (1 paper) and Annals of Medicine (1 paper)
    2. Participated in the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research Emerging Vision Scientists Day (EVS) program in 2021. Nominated by the BrightFocus Foundation to discuss the importance of funding eye research with health staff from Congressional delegation offices!
    3. Young Investigator Representative for the International Society for Eye Research (ISER) Young Investigator Committee. Started the ISER Young Investigator blog and led the committee in its inaugural ISER YI Seminar Series on “Unspoken Secrets of Being an International Scientist”.
    4. Worked on the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) and worked on the ASIP Committee for Career Development
    5. Invited Guest Speaker for #BioChemChats Diversity Seminar with Dr. Daisy Shu on August 13th 2021 6pm with Indiana University organized by Vik Meadows and Daenique Jengelley
    6. October 2021: Invited by Dr. Zachary Saylor from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University to participate in a two-part interview series on my career journey to help students learn about the breadth of careers, sharing insights into my work and talk about what the day-to-day life is like in biomedical sciences careers.
    7. BioRender Templates:
      1. Metabolic Assays – Using Seahorse Analyzers
      2. Signaling Pathways Underlying EMT and EndMT in Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
      3. Canonical and Non-canonical TGFb Pathways in EMT
    8. Wrote blog post for ASIP NextGen Blog on the PISA2021 meeting here.
  4. Leadership Training
    1. Completed the altMBA by Seth Godin Akimbo in February-March 2021 (altMBA45)
    2. September 2021: Learn to Lead UNSW Virtual Course
    3. Started Flom Leadership Workshop at American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting in Boston 2021
  5. Conferences
    1. Talks
      1. Shu DY, Butcher E, Cai S, Senthilkumar I, Frank S, Gollapalli D, Saint-Geniez M. Suppression of PGC-1α drives metabolic dysfunction in TGFβ2-induced EMT of retinal pigment epithelial cells. [Abstract]. AOPT XV Meeting, March 6th 2021 in the session on “Novel therapeutic targeting for age-related macular degeneration – overcoming the challenging path to success” moderated by Goldis Malek and Aprana Lakkarju, Virtual (Link).
      2. Shu DY, Saint-Geniez M. Suppression of PGC-1α drives metabolic dysfunction in TGFβ2-induced EMT of retinal pigment epithelial cells. [Abstract for Departmental Seminar]. Schepens Eye Research Institute Trainees’ Work in Progress Seminar, April 2021, Virtual (Link).
      3. Shu DY, Butcher E, Cai S, Senthilkumar I, Frank S, Gollapalli D, Saint-Geniez M. Differential effects of TNFα on mitochondrial function and metabolic activity in the retinal pigment epithelium. [Abstract] ARVO Annual Meeting, May 5th 2021, Virtual (Link).
      4. Shu DY, Saint-Geniez M. Integrating metabolic reprogramming and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT): insights from the retina. [Abstract]. ASIP Young Investigator Keynote Seminar Series, June 16th 2021 12pm EST, Virtual (Link).
      5. Shu DY, Saint-Geniez M. EMT, mitochondria and metabolic reprogramming: insights from the retinal pigment epithelium. [Abstract]. AOIP Young Investigator Seminar Series, September 10th 2021 3pm EST, Virtual (Link). Followed by sharing my career development tips in the AOIP Trainee Roundtable.
      6. Shu DY, Butcher ER , Nnuji-John E, Frank S, Shah R, Cai S, Gollapalli D, Saint-Geniez M. Interplay Between TNFα-Induced Inflammation and Metabolic Dysfunction in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells [Abstract]. PISA 2021 (Pathobiology for Investigators, Students, and Academicians Young Investigators Virtual Meeting by the American Society for Investigative Pathology) on October 6th 2021 4:45-5pm, Virtual. Awarded the Postdoctoral Award for Outstanding Research (Link).
    2. Posters
      1. Shu DY, Butcher E, Cai S, Senthilkumar I, Frank S, Saint-Geniez M. [Abstract]. Metabolic Rewiring and Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Transforming Growth Factor-Beta 2-Induced Retinal Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition. MGH Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) 2021 Virtual Poster Session on April 7th 2021 (Link).
      2. Shu DY, Butcher E, Cai S, Senthilkumar I, Frank S, Saint-Geniez M. [Abstract]. Metabolic Reprogramming of the Retinal Pigment Epithelium Drives TGFβ2-Induced Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition. Experimental Biology 2021 Virtual Poster Session April 27-30th 2021 (Link).
      3. Shu D, Butcher E, Cai S, Frank S, Nnuji-John E, Gollapalli D, Saint-Geniez M. [Abstract]. Role of metabolic dysfunction in TNFαinduced inflammation in retinal pigment epithelial cells. XIX International Symposium on Retinal Degeneration, RD2021 Hybrid Format, Attended virtually. Sept. 27 – Oct. 2, 2021 Online and in person at the Sonesta Nashville Airport Hotel, Nashville, TN (Link).
    3. Other conferences attended
      1. American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting, November 3-6, 2021
      2. Vascular Biology Retreat Program Retreat, November 19, 2021
  6. Publications
    1. Shu DY, Ng K, Wishart TFL, Chui J, Lundmark M, Flokis M, Lovicu FJ. Contrasting roles for BMP-4 and ventromorphins (BMP agonists) in TGFβ-induced lens EMT. Exp Eye Res. 2021 Mar 24;206:108546. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2021.108546. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33773977. (Link)
    2. Shu DY, Butcher ER, Saint-Geniez M. Suppression of PGC-1α Drives Metabolic Dysfunction in TGFβ2-Induced EMT of Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2021; 22(9):4701. (Link)
    3. Wishart T, Flokis M, Shu DY, Das S, Lovicu FJ. Hallmarks of lens aging and cataractogenesis. Experimental Eye Research. 2021, p.108709. (Link)
    4. Shu DY and Lovicu FJ 2021. Insights into Bone Morphogenetic Protein—(BMP-) Signaling in Ocular Lens Biology and Pathology Cells 10, no. 10: 2604.
  7. Awards and Grants
    1. July 2021 – July 2023: Shu DY. Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Macular Degeneration Research, USD$200, 000. BrightFocus Foundation (Link)
    2. BrightFocus Foundation  Honorable Mention Paper Award at the upcoming XV AOPT meeting on line. The award, based on the abstract you submitted, is for $200 USD. Meeting registration fee of $100 for the AOPT XV Biennial Scientific Meeting will be reimbursed by the BrightFocus Foundation.
    3. American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP) Experimental Pathologist-in Training (EPIT) Merit Award. The award comes with a $1,250.00 stipend and complimentary meeting registration provided by ASIP for the Experimental Biology 2021 Virtual Meeting.
    4. ProteinTech Best Postdoc Mentor Award Finalist 2021 (Link)
    5. American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP) PISA2021 Virtual Meeting Postdoctoral Award for Outstanding Research (Link). Award details.
  8. Travelling and social events
    1. Celebrating my 31st birthday with a pink-themed party
    2. Visited Nilisha Fernando in Washington DC and visited NYC
    3. Celebrated Thanksgiving in New Jersey with my friend Nathaniel LeCompte and his family
    4. Baked a 20-pound Christmas Ham
    5. Got fully-vaccinated and boosted!

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