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Profile: Roxanne Duan

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1288
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1288

Country: Taiwan

Field: Biomedical Research

Workplace: Functional Genetics Inc.

CREDIT: SAM SHEN

When biomedical researcher Roxanne Duan left Taiwan 20 years ago to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California, San Francisco, she resisted socializing with students from similar cultural backgrounds. “I was trying hard to fit into American society and didn't want to be isolated in a little Chinese group,” she recalls.

But after graduating and building a career in the biotechnology industry, Duan began reconnecting with her Asian roots. And this year, at age 43, she's set to become president of the 500-member Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association, USA, a Maryland-based networking group. “I was feeling the need to look for my Chinese identity, I guess,” says Duan, who works on antiviral drugs at Functional Genetics, a biotech company in Rockville, Maryland. Not only has the association given her an opportunity to help younger Chinese scientists, especially women, she says, “but now I have a place where I can talk [Taiwanese] politics.”

Duan came to the United States planning to pursue an academic career. But she was soon attracted to industry: In 1996, she joined Human Genome Sciences, also in Rockville, and 2 years ago she set out on her own. But after failing to raise sufficient capital to fully develop her company, which aimed to fine-tune technologies for teasing out protein functions, she threw in her lot with Functional Genetics.

“I'm the typical American in some ways,” she says, ruefully noting that she's “one of those suburban, single moms driving around with two kids.” But she's Taiwanese, too. “I was taught to have a tremendous sense of responsibility for my parents, but I only see them once a year at most,” she says. “It can be heartbreaking.”

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