Mello Agrees to serve As Science Advisor to Tsinghua University leaders, concurrently with UMass President Wilson 

March 26, 2007 

WORCESTER, Mass.-University of Massachusetts Medical School professor and Nobel Laureate Craig C. Mello, PhD, travels to China this week to speak at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, the University of Science and Technology of China, and Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH). While in China, Mello will be participating in the Chinese Academy of Sciences' (CAS) widely-respected "Einstein Professor Program" and he will host a seminar for CAS officials. 

Dr. Mello will make presentations related to his discovery of RNA interference (RNAi), for which he and colleague Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, of Stanford University, were awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. RNAi is a biological process through which double-stranded RNA inhibits gene expression in a highly specific fashion. Since its discovery in 1998, RNA interference has emerged as a powerful gene-silencing technique used in laboratories around the world to determine which genes are important in various diseases and conditions. RNAi also has promise as the basis of gene-silencing therapies. 

On Monday, Mello visited Tsinghua University, with which the University of Massachusetts signed a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding last year. 

The Memorandum, signed by UMass President Jack M. Wilson and Tsinghua President Gu Bing Lin, is one initiative in an ongoing effort by UMass to develop closer relationships with China. Recognizing the rapid economic growth taking place in that country, President Wilson said at the time, "Many economists predict that China will surpass Japan as the second most powerful economy in the world by 2020. It is essential that we recognize this fact of our quickly changing global economy and take steps to maximize potential educational and business opportunities for our University and for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."  

While at Tsinghua, Dr. Mello agreed to serve as a Science Advisor to Zheng Yankang, Vice Chair of the Tsinghua University Council and President of Tsinghua University Lanfang Institute, along with serving as a senior Science Advisor to UMass President Jack M. Wilson. 

Dr. Mello's visit further strengthens the University's relationships with Chinese universities and helps to build and develop channels of communication. In November 2006, the University of Massachusetts and China's Ministry of Education launched the University of Massachusetts Confucius Institute located at UMass Boston, a non-profit public institute to promote the teaching and understanding of Chinese language and culture and support Chinese language education in Massachusetts. It is only the seventh Confucius Institute in the United States and the first in New England. The establishment of the institute follows a trip to China lead by UMass President Jack M. Wilson to meet with senior Chinese officials, political and business leaders on a range of issues and representatives. 

President Wilson considers the University's Chinese partnerships to be an important continuation of the University of Massachusetts' efforts to foster educational and cultural exchanges throughout the world. "We live in an increasingly interconnected world and it is essential that we prepare our students to compete successfully in the global marketplace," said President Wilson. 

The Chinese Academy of Sciences' "Einstein Professor Program", which seeks to enhance scientific collaboration between Chinese scientists and experts throughout the world, annually invites approximately ten top science and technology leaders for an academic visit to the country. Invited guests like Dr. Mello, many of whom are winners of some of the most exclusive international prizes in the sciences, visit two or more other academic institutes in the country to participate in research or academic activities such as workshops, laboratory experiments, meetings with students and the exchange of ideas regarding collaborative programs. 

In related news, this spring, Tsinghua University professors Feng Qingling, Guosheng Gai and Luo Jianbin will present lectures at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the UMass Amherst and Boston campuses. 


Alison Duffy, UMMS

Libby DeVecchi, University of Massachusetts