Asian Woman

As an Asian woman speaking English with an accent in a Caucasian dominated society, how can I overcome the difficulties, unfairness, inequality, and discrimination in this society? Of course, there is no one right/good answer. Unfortunately and also inevitably, there have been incidences that occurred to me that I am certain would never have happened if I were not an “Asian woman”. That is to say that if I were an “Asian man” or a “non-Asian woman”, things would have worked out completely differently.

In many ways, I have dealt with this by trying to focus on my tasks and not let peripheral things around my tasks sidetrack me. In fact, this is by no means my unique way of dealing with difficult situations and challenges. Many Asian women have this quality of focusing on the “mission” at hand. I have seen it in many if not the majority of Asian women, including in my own family. To me, this quality of “focusing on the issue at hand and mentally pushing other noise out” can also be viewed as a trait of “inner strength”.

One need not look very far and long to see the undersurface perception of many in our society that Asian woman are pushovers and easy target for taking advantage of. Many expect Asian women to obey them, to serve them, or be subordinate. Why? I wondered for a long time on this issue and I have discussed this with many colleagues and friends. Some said it’s because of our names, names that are not possible to remember. Hmmm… Maybe. Some said that it’s because we bow too much, our culture of being respectful and humble. Hmmm… Still others said that these are just my own perceptions and mostly because of my introverted personality. Well, I am sure that it is as difficult for others to remember Asian names as it is for me to remember foreign names, but it will not be any reason for me to treat the others any different just because of this reason. I always feel that if I don’t request anyone else to change their names so I can remember them easier, I surely should not need to change my name (which I equate to my identity) so others can remember me better. Maybe I have been wrong. Regardless, “being respectful and humble absolutely cannot be wrong,” I am sure Confucius would have said.

Asian women, especially my generation and generations before me, have been influenced by societal and cultural expectations since the day they were born. “Girls should…”, “Women should…”, “Girls should not…”, “Women should not…” these are phrases that I heard all the time growing up. In fact, one of the most exciting reasons that finally made me decide to stay in this country and not return was that I realized all the people who could and would say those phrases to me were on the opposite side of the globe, and I didn’t have to see or hear them unless I chose to. However, little did I know that I was going to face another huge societal and cultural challenge for the years to come.  In my recent trip to my high school reunion, I learned that many of my classmates are successful women in their respectful fields including business, education, advertise, publishing, medicine, writer, etc. Many of them came to the US for graduate education and returned to become very successful. I wonder how I might have been if I had returned to my home country. One thing for sure is that I would not have this desire of changing the world’s perception on Asian women if I didn’t stay.

It’s not possible for me to remember all the incidences that I was treated differently because of being an Asian woman. Some were so small that were forgotten immediately and some have been life-changing events. Of course, there are also many times that things work out favorably to me because of my Asian woman identity.

The bottom line is thus, are you willing to help changing this perception? And, if you are an “Asian woman”, what can you do to help change this perception?

Sleep and Mood

We live at a time where material abundance is overflowing. If our ancestors from even a few centuries ago could see us today, they would be amazed by how many new “things”, “toys and gadgets,” and various forms of entertainment we now have at our disposal. Any yet, people today are not happier than a few hundred years ago. The prevalence of depression today is much higher (some say 100 times) than just a hundred years ago. Why? You might ask. Hmm, here is another mystery for today’s society.  Sure, we know that mood dysregulation is due to imbalance of brain neurotransmitters. But, what cause this imbalance? Why are some people more susceptible than others? Why does depression seem to also frequently “run in the family”? And, why more now than before?

A potential clue for us is that a majority of people who suffer from depression also experience complaints about their sleep habits. They either cannot fall in sleep or they feel sleepy all the time. Interestingly, bright light treatment is sometimes helpful for depressed people. Therefore, sleep has long been thought to have close connections with our mood regulation.  However, despite the long search for genetic causes of mood dysregulation, they have remained largely elusive.

In our study of sleep regulation, we found that some of our participants with unusual sleep patterns also have interestingly unusual mood patterns. Could it be that these people carry rare mutations that confer both unusual sleep and mood? Therefore, can we then use the mutations that we find for sleep regulation to study mood regulation? This is an area of intense interest for us and we hope to share our findings soon!


Welcome to!

Have you ever wonder why you sleep less than most of people around you and you don’t feel tired and you get tons of things done everyday? Perhaps more commonly, you wonder why someone else you know can function perfectly with less sleep than you do.  For me personally, I have always wished that I could feel better with the amount of sleep that I normally get. 

Sleep remains to be one of the most mysterious things that we do in life. If you dig into the scientific literature, you will find that we actually don’t know much about how our sleep is regulated. What dictates how much sleep is optimal for each of us? And why? Why do I need 8 hours and you only need 6? Seems unfair to me, but why can’t I just sleep 6 hours anyway? What happen if I just drink coffee and sleep 6 hours and maintain this schedule for a long time? What is it that is controlling this area of my life? Well, the answer of course is your brain. Which parts of my brain is doing this to me? How do they control my schedule? Well, we don’t know. 

These are some of the questions we want to answer. But, how? Fortunately, it appears that our genes have something to do with this. From our studies of the last 15 years, we learned that sleep traits do “run in the family” for many cases. This suggests that there is some major genetic component that is dictating sleep traits for those particular families. But, this does not mean that the same genetic component is responsible for all the families with the particular trait. We have had good fortune to have many people participating our studies in sleep behavior. Because of these participants, we have been able to identify a few genetic variations that are responsible for sleep behavior related traits including preferred sleep schedule and sleep duration.  

Our goal is to see whether we can understand the nutss and bolts of sleep regulation enough so that we can find a safe way to modulate our sleep behavior without jeopardizing our health.