By: Miaomiao He and Eunice Kim
Structural biologist Nieng Yan’s fascination with the microscopic world since her childhood was a major influence on her decision to study structural biology. Her structural studies on several important membrane transport proteins such as human glucose transporters and voltage-gated sodium channels have greatly improved our understanding of their mechanisms and may have important implications for drug design and discovery. In 2019, Dr. Yan was elected to the National Academy of Sciences as an international member for her contribution to science in elucidating the structures of membrane transport proteins using cryo-EM and X-ray crystallography. Dr. Yan received her Bachelor’s degree from the Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology at Tsinghua University and Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University and is currently the Shirley M. Tilghman Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton. She was an HHMI International Early Career Scientist from 2012-2017 and the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the 2015 Beverley & Raymond Sackler International Prize in Biophysics as well as the Protein Society Young Investigator Award of that same year, the 2016 Alexander M. Cruickshank Award at the GRC on membrane transport proteins, the 2018 FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence, and the 2019 Weizmann Women in Science Award for her outstanding scientific achievements.