Personal History

I was born into a college professor's family in Taiwan. My father was a Professor of Horticulture for many years. When I was a teenager, I started working in his lab measuring sugar and protein content of Lichee fruit (it was delicious!).

My official science career started when I was a physics major at the National Taiwan University. In my junior year, I became immensely interested in biology. My professor, however, would not allow me to change to a biology major. I suffered through my senior year and decided to pursue my graduate study in biology, after the completion of a year of military service.

No US graduate program in biology would accept me because of my poor background in biology and chemistry. Only the biophysics program at Michigan State University had enough mercy and courage to take me as a graduate student. I still remember having to learn the difference between a microtubule and a microfilament in a freshman biology class. ( I was the only graduate student in the class).

My first lab experience was with Professor Barney Rosenberg who had just discovered cis-platinum as a potent anticancer drug. I really did not have enough wisdom and intelligence to appreciate the work and I chose to work with another professor who played with electron spin resonance. Somehow, those electrons jumping between two giant magnets were much more friendly to me than those mice running around the cage.

I finished my Ph.D. in 1974 and took a postdoc position in Dr. Richard Pagano's lab at Carnegie Institute of Washington. It took me and my newly-wed wife, Shilling, some time to get used to the life in a big city, i.e. Baltimore. Richard taught me the art and science
of liposomes which became my first love in science.

I went down to Knoxville, TN in 1976 to take on a position as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Tennessee. As soon as we arrived, Shilling and I got lost in Knoxville and decided to ask for directions in a local gas station. A very nice man spent five minutes trying to tell me where the University was, but I could not understand him because of his heavy southern accent. I remember telling my wife, "Let us stay for a couple of years and then move back to the north."

Well, that couple of years turned into fifteen. We fell in love with the city (picked up our own southern accents!). Our children grew up in Knoxville, and were very reluctant to leave when we decided to move to Pittsburgh in 1991.

We liked Pittsburgh a lot except for the occasional harsh winters. Shilling and I finally became used to our empty nest, as both of our children have left home for college. I liked my job at Pitt which gave me a chance to direct a new Center for Pharmacogenetics. I also hoped that Professor Rosenberg would not notice the fact that I have started working with cis-platinum.

Well, the time came again for another move; this time, going back to the South.  Our lab

( the Laboratory of Drug Targeting ) moved with me to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in July of 2005.  I am now Chair of the Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy.  It is hard to imagine that I have become an administrator. 


God Bless You!!

Leaf Huang

Back to CV index