Faith Au Yeung is a research scientist who has been working for the past eight years for the University Health Network at Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto. Her research focuses primarily on breast cancer.
Tell us a little about your work every day.
Our group investigates the biology of normal and cancer cells and their behavior in tumor growth, cancer spread, and therapy. My work involves generating model systems, where I can study protein differences between normal and breast cancer cells with respect to their surrounding environment. This helps our group to understand cancer development, identify new targets and biomarkers, and develop cancer therapies.
Sometimes we hear that girls/young women aren’t encouraged to pursue careers in math and science. How were your scientific interests nurtured?
My parents played a big part in my career choice. One thing they always emphasized was that no matter what career I decided to pursue, it should be something that impassions me and that I find joy in doing. They reminded me to use and honor the gifts that God has given me to the best of my ability. I ended up choosing science.
What aspect of your work uniquely reflects the image of God and his work in the world?
Our bodies are a work of such sensitive, intricate, and complex systems. Each tissue and organ has its own place, its own specific function, and even its own single cell component. Though we share the same makeup of cells, tissues, and organs, each of us is made uniquely different in the image of God. As scientists, we have only just started to understand how it all works together, and I am, and continue to be, amazed at God’s creation. I have seen firsthand many researchers who have come to believe that there is a God and that he is the Creator of all things.
As a cancer researcher, how do you uniquely see and experience the world’s brokenness?
As a biologist, I see how particular proteins are available for use by the body to protect itself against disease. As a cancer researcher, though, I see the unfortunate damage that mutated genes and dysfunctional proteins can do and how these result in the formation of tumors. These malformations are a constant reminder for me that we live in a broken world, a world where there is disease and suffering.
Describe how “hopeful” you feel as a Christian about the prospects of cancer research.
I very much want us to find a cure for cancer. We have developed therapies to improve the quality of life for cancer patients, and we are identifying biomarkers to diagnose cancer earlier. Yes, we want to eventually conquer cancer. But I also recognize that we live in a broken and sinful world and that we will experience pain, suffering, and sickness until Jesus comes back for his people. So my sureness and hope is in our Lord and his return, and I look forward to and long for the day when we will have new bodies.