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Behind the Research: Jun Wu

About the feature

Many people are involved in the remarkable range of programs, services and facilities that undergird research in the College of Agriculture. Collectively they’re integral to the college fulfilling its research mission. “Behind the Research” explores their individual roles. Each academic year, we profile six people whose work supports the College of Agriculture’s global reputation for developing innovative, multidisciplinary solutions to challenges and then putting those solutions into action.

Jun Wu, Research Assistant, Department of Animal Sciences

  • Coordinates daily operations for the Kuang lab and oversees labs on the second floor of the Creighton Hall of Animal Sciences. 
  • Purchases all lab supplies and equipment, and maintains and updates the inventory regularly so that researchers can easily find the reagent they need. 
  • Was part of the committee that oversaw the department’s relocation to the new animal science building: “Everything went well as planned and the new labs look great.”
Jun Wu JUN WU, RESEARCH ASSISTANT, DEPARTMENT OF ANIMAL SCIENCES

When Jun Wu worked for contractor in Canada, she priced items related to home construction. It’s not unlike her current work, but now she is purchasing reagents, lab supplies and equipment — under more challenging conditions.

Wu spends about 80 percent of her time in the lab of Shihuan Kuang, professor of animal sciences, and her remaining time working on behalf of the department.

Wu completed undergraduate study in her native China, earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. She then went to Canada, where she added a master’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Ottawa. She worked as a researcher and materials purchaser in Canada before moving with her family to Indiana in 2009.

Fifteen to 20 people depend on Wu to keep the lab running efficiently. Her responsibilities include training personnel; budgeting and billing; lab duty assignments; overseeing lab equipment, software, reagents and supplies; and annual renewals of lab licenses and documentation.

Wu often has to solve problems quickly and independently. She finds vendors, negotiates prices, places orders and follows up on them, and receives and inventories stock. Because of COVID-19, common lab supplies — gloves, pipettes tips, petri dishes, tubes, plates and many reagents — are often backordered, she says. That sometimes sends Wu on a time-consuming search for alternate suppliers. “I have to plan way ahead of time to get enough common lab supplies to prevent interruption in students’ research projects,” she says.

The lab inventory database that Wu established helps lab members quickly locate their needed reagents, avoids duplicate orders and prevents the lab from running out of common supplies.

She works with sales agents and customer service teams, but her focus is on faculty, postdocs and students. “I am proud of the exciting work by faculty in the department,” she says. “When I negotiate with vendors and save grant money for the lab, I feel that my service in the department is rewarded.”

One of the things Wu likes about her job is “the many pieces to it.”

As coordinator of departmental facilities on the second floor of the animal sciences building, Wu routinely inspects the facility and its equipment. She is a member of the departmental safety committee. She also communicates often with animal facility staff, mouse caregivers and the Purdue Animal Care and Use Committee on the care of the lab’s 40-plus mouse colonies.

Wu introduces students to the lab and trains them in safety and animal care protocols. She especially likes working with students from different countries and cultures. “Every student has their own individual needs, and different people have different abilities,” she says. She proudly adds that she helps them all.

“Although I am not faculty that directly advises students, I have been involved in helping students’ thesis research through providing support in reagents, supplies and methods,” she says. “I also routinely communicate with trainees in my group to better understand their personal and professional needs or situations, and provide advice for improvements or how to overcome hurdles.”

Her students are frequently similar in age to her own children. “I am always especially proud of the trainees in the lab and in the department,” Wu says. “When they published a paper, graduated, or received a job offer either in academia or industry, I would feel very proud of what they did, just like my kids.”

She also hopes she has helped shape their futures: “The training that they receive from me will hopefully be spread to their new colleagues and passed on to their students.”

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