Lily Li


Ph.D. in Developmental and Cell Biology, UC Irvine, 2021

B.S. in Bioengineering from Caltech, 2011


I am interested in elucidating the effect of an enhancer's regulatory task on its architecture, as well as, understanding how chromosomal architecture, biochemical compatibility, insulators, and physical distance contribute to determining interactions between enhancers and promoters. Lily's dissertation title is, "Demystifying the relationship between DNA sequence features and regulatory function."


Lily obtained her Ph.D. in Developmental and Cell Biology in Prof. Zeba Wunderlich's lab at UCI. I grew up in Southern California and earned my bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering with a minor in English at Caltech. While I was figuring out my next step, I worked as a lab technician at Harvey Mudd College. That’s where I became fascinated by the question of how DNA, which is written in just four “letters”, can encode how and when proteins are made. This led me to seek a Ph.D. at UC Irvine where I was lucky to be the first to join the lab of Zeba Wunderlich. I love meeting people and learning about their experiences. When not working, I enjoy hiking, singing, making crafts, and recently, reading webcomics!

Why is science communication important to you?

Science is incredibly fun, but what’s the point if scientists are the only ones who know about it?! I want to make science accessible for people. That way I can kindle people’s enthusiasm for science and help them experience the same wonder and awe that I feel when learning about scientific discoveries. For me, it’s a bit like sharing delicious food with a friend. It’s better when someone else gets to enjoy it too! And hopefully, the experience will pique their curiosity and desire to explore the world around us.

In addition, the world needs science more than ever, but it seems to be losing faith in it. We can counter this by humanizing scientists, helping people better understand the process of science, and considering how science is affected by cultural and other contexts. As science communicators, we play an important role in shaping how people view and experience science, and I’m excited to play a part in carving a positive space for science in the future.

Click here for Loh Downs by Lily!