Meet a Mentor Monday: Chongbei Zhao

In today’s “Meet a Mentor Monday,” we introduce Chongbei Zhao from Stowers Institute for Medical Research, who guides students toward finding their own solutions by asking open-ended questions and nurturing a sense of open-mindedness. 

Originally from Ningling, in the state of Shangqiu, China, Chongbei earned her MD at Zhengzhou University. She then pursued her Ph.D. in Cell Biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Since joining the Stowers Institute in 2012, Chongbei has been working to unravel the mysteries of cell biology, cancer biology, and neurodegenerative diseases. Her research involves studying cells from various species, such as mice, snails, and flies; and conducting gene editing, which could potentially lead to cures for human illnesses. 

Chongbei has worked with the KC STEM Alliance team on programs supporting Project Lead The Way students. She lends her expertise to PLTW biomedical science capstone students by reviewing proposals and suggesting possible improvements or future directions for their work. She also helps judge the PLTW Senior Showcase online competitions, encouraging budding scientists to enjoy and contribute to science.

Outside the lab, Chongbei likes to spend time outdoors, jogging and working out; engage in activities with her kids, read books, and socialize with friends. Professionally, she enjoys reading management and mentoring books, staying updated on scientific literature, and exploring new scientific projects. 

A strong believer in giving back to the scientific and local communities, Chongbei focuses on conducting excellent research and mentoring new scientists and students:

“Giving back to the community is what I’m trying to do,” she says. “Cultivate the young minds and encourage them to explore science or their future direction in a supportive way.”

Although some may equate mentoring with teaching, Chongbei sees mentoring more broadly: “To me, mentoring is to help others find a solution to a specific situation on his/her own by asking open questions instead of handing off a solution.” 

Mentors can help students with decision-making by sharing their experiences and asking open-ended questions to encourage creative thinking and open-mindedness. 

“Stay hungry, stay foolish. Working in STEM is not about being a ‘know-it-all’ but striving to understand and discover the unknown, sometimes getting closer to the truth and sometimes being wrong,” Chongbei says. “Maintaining an open mind while conducting research is crucial. It’s important to keep in mind that ‘I might be wrong,’ so that we remain open to new ideas, concepts, and sometimes even opposing opinions.”