Principal Investigator

Dr. Tsai-Yi Lu (they/them/theirs)

Dr. Lu was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, to a middle-class family where their father was a small business employee, and mother worked as a typist. Before obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and Technology at the then National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu, Dr. Lu had considered various career options, including a watchmaker and a blockbuster store manager (Google it if you don’t know what a blockbuster store is).

Fascinated by C.J. Peters’s “Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World,” Dr. Lu pursued a master’s degree in Microbiology at National Taiwan University and completed their thesis on how the hepatitis C virus combats the interferon-alpha anti-viral signaling pathway. Dr. Lu then decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School at Worcester to have a deeper understanding of host-immune interactions. Before the 1st year began, Dr. Lu asked advice from some senior graduate students to fill up the 3rd rotation slot at the dinner table, and that was when the names “Marc Freeman” and “glial cells” were brought up. During their meeting, Dr. Freeman, who later became Dr. Lu’s Ph.D. advisor, told them that glial cells not only serve as frontline responders in the “immune-privileged” brain but that their biology has been under-examined in the nearly 100 years since their discovery. With unbounded curiosity and a soft spot for long-misunderstood, marginalized cells, Dr. Lu decided to join the Freeman lab and has since then become a glia aficionado.

Under the guidance of their Ph.D. and postdoctoral mentors at UMass, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Lu has published several original findings in peer-reviewed journals, ranging from the molecular mechanisms of glial responses to neurodegeneration, to the neuromodulation of glial dynamics in the mammalian brain.

In Sep. 2023, Dr. Lu will start their laboratory at the University of Virginia Department of Neuroscience. The goal of Dr. Lu’s laboratory is to understand how the intimate interactions between neurons and glial cells help our brain to execute daily functions and what the consequences are when these interactions are disrupted during aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Lu remains a virus enthusiast and is an amateur podcast host for a show discussing social issues with fun and diverse perspectives.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

and drinking largely sobers us again.

Alexander Pope

Dr. Lu’s CV (as of Feb 9th, 2024)