Dr. Yu Chen joins the UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center (MIC)

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We welcome MIC’s new mass spectrometry scientist Yu Chen to UCLA.                                

“We are so pleased to recruit Dr. Yu Chen,” Department Chair Prof. Catherine F. Clarke said. “Our students will benefit from his more than ten years of experience and expertise in maintaining and using mass spectrometers.”

The UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center (MIC) is a campus-wide, state-of-the-art core facility that enables the use of modern instrumentation in molecular characterizations. 

Prior to joining UCLA, Yu was a research specialist at the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he employed mass spectrometry based bottom-up proteomic techniques to discover protein functions in complex biological systems.

“Yu has outstanding training qualifications in mass spectrometry,” Prof. Joe Loo, head of the search committee, said. “Not only does he have experience with a wide range of different types of mass spectrometry instrumentation, but he is knowledgeable in mass spectrometry applications in chemistry and biochemistry. He will be a tremendous asset to the MIC.”

Dr. Yu Chen with an HPLC-Orbitrap mass spectrometer, one of several instruments that he will work with in the UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center.

Yu received his B.A. in Applied Chemistry from Dalian University of Technology, China, in 2002 and he went on to receive his M.S. in Physical Chemistry from University of Windsor, Canada.  

In 2012, Yu earned his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry with Prof. Mary Rodgers at Wayne State University. His Ph.D. research applied tandem mass spectrometry techniques and theoretical electrostatic structure calculations to determine the thermochemical parameters that govern the interactions for metal-ligand complexes and noncovalently-bound crown ether-amino acids complexes. The thermochemical information determined in his work set a benchmark for the 18-crown-6 and alkali metal binding affinities of a variety of amino acids.

Yu then became a postdoctoral research associate at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and Florida State University under the supervision of Prof. Alan Marshall. His postdoctoral research focused on designing novel mass spectrometry instrumentation to improve sensitivity. Yu’s redesign of the front end of a custom-built 9.4-Telsa Fourier transform-ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometer resulted in a more than tenfold increase in ion transmission efficiency. His postdoctoral research also aimed at deciphering the epigenetic histone codes involved in specific biological events, such as cancer cell proliferation, viral infection, etc. by use of top-down mass spectrometry. Yu discovered several potential biomarkers, e.g., histone variants and post-translational modifications (PTMs), which exhibit significant changes in abundance during breast cancer invasion and HIV infection. These findings provide insight into the mechanism by which multiple histone PTMs function in concert to regulate gene expression during these biological events.

Yu’s office is located in the Molecular Sciences Building, room 1430, and he can be reached at 310-206-0432 or yuchen@chem.ucla.edu. He looks forward to working with the students, staff, and faculty at UCLA.

Photos by Penny Jennings/UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.