By Lauren Hines | Bond LSC

The work was tiring. The hours were long. However, Ph.D. candidate Li Su wasn’t affected by any of it. She was in her element

During her undergraduate degree in China, Su studied turfgrass science.

“There was a chance for undergraduates to do some research project, so I tried it and, although it was exhausting, I stayed in the lab and time just passed,” Su said. “I felt quiet and at peace. I kind of enjoyed it.”

As part of the Dong Xu lab at Bond Life Sciences Center, Su works on statistics and data analysis for many research studies throughout Bond LSC.

Originally from China, Su moved to Springfield, Missouri in 2016 to earn her master’s in plant science at Missouri State University. Once she graduated in 2018, she moved to Houston, Texas to work at a biomedical research institution. After a while, she applied for graduate school but wanted to go in a new direction.

“While I was in Houston, at that job, I was confused,” Su said. “I was just thinking about my skills, what I liked to do in the lab and what will make me survive … I realized even a lot of postdocs or senior graduate students were kind of limited in the statistics and data analysis, so I tried to figure out how to do those things.”

Su switched her focus, was accepted by Mizzou in 2020 and soon found her place in the Dong Xu lab.

“As we are trying to handle this big data, the main weapon for us is coding,” said Juexin Wang, Dong Xu’s lab manager. “So, when we are trying to deal with that big amount of data, we have to highly rely on the coding skills and [Su] does that very, very well. She is learning fast and uses all her resources to learn that.”

Su joined the lab while it was strictly Zoom lab meetings and everything was remote. Despite the digital barriers, Su stood out to Wang.

He had found a paper where he believed the lab could replace its methodology with theirs and make the study stronger. Wang mentioned this to Su over Zoom, not thinking much of it.

“Probably weeks later, she came to me and she tells me many things about the other methodology,” Wang said. “So, I was really impressed.”

Su understands what it means to do good science in the lab and what that could mean for others.

“I think a lot of people I work with tell me to be honest with yourself about your science, about your work,” Su said. “I want some work to be like this, so you have a novel idea, you scientifically prove it and make the conclusion helpful to a group of people. I feel like if I have such work, I can be part of the [scientific] community.”

Even though Su isn’t working on any of her own projects right now, her main goal is to publish new and better papers during her Ph.D.

“Smarts, diligence, persistence — I think those are very, very key characteristics,” Wang said. “[Su] is making her weapons much more powerful and much sharper. I think she will get some very good achievements.”