Tsai-Tien Tseng Named Associate Director of Undergraduate Research

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 3, 2020) — Tsai-Tien Tseng, associate professor of biology in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, was named the associate director of undergraduate research at Kennesaw State University July 1.

As associate director of undergraduate research, Tseng now splits his time between his faculty andTsai-Tien Tseng administrative positions.  He continues to teach three courses every year, and his research groups of undergraduate and graduate students will continue with their projects in areas such as bioinformatics, metagenomics, and molecular evolution under his supervision. 

“Dr. Tseng has already worked closely with the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) for several years,” said Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research. “He has served as the faculty representative for undergraduate research on the university-wide It's About Engagement initiative and participated in the initiative’s Faculty Learning Community on Undergraduate Research for the last two years.”

“These experiences, plus his regular mentoring of KSU undergraduate researchers, including currently serving as the co-advisor for the Undergraduate Research Club, means that he will be able to hit the ground running in this new position,” she said.

Tseng’s duties involve everyday management of OUR programs with the intent to continuously improve the overall research environment for undergraduate students and faculty colleagues. He also searches for related resources to increase the competitiveness of Kennesaw State University among its peer institutions.

“My goal is to raise the awareness of the benefits of research among our students and how being diligent with a research project beyond classwork will lead to many other possibilities, including jobs and graduate training,” said Tseng. “Our students can then take advantage of the funding and travel opportunities offered at KSU with OUR helping them in finding these experiences.”

With a wide variety of research experiences, Tseng would also like to incorporate and support more cross-disciplinary opportunities through OUR’s programming. “It is my strong belief that our students learning interdisciplinary research is key in meeting challenges in various fields,” he said.

Tseng has been working on some aspect of undergraduate research for his entire career, mentoring undergraduates on his own since he was in graduate school.

Tseng started as an undergraduate researcher during his junior year at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) with mentor Milton H. Saier Jr., a professor of molecular biology. He now serves on Saier’s scientific advisory board for the Transporter Classification System, and reviews manuscripts for the journal on which Saier is editor-in-chief.

“Since I had an excellent experience with my own undergraduate research at UCSD, I have taken the example set forth by Dr. Saier to create meaningful experiences for my students,” said Tseng. “Research is essential for any scientist and science is about discovery.  Professors in the sciences are unique combinations of teachers and scientists.” 

Tseng began his career at the university in 2012 as an assistant professor at Southern Polytechnic State University and then moved to the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at KSU in 2015 after the two institutions consolidated.

Tseng earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Molecular Biology and Biology from UCSD through its dual degree program. He also completed a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a recipient of a Molecular Biophysics Training Grant from the National Institutes of Health. 

“For my doctoral dissertation, I worked on voltage-gated ion channels (a class of transmembranes that form ion channels) which often relates to excitable tissues, such as neurons,” said Tseng. “Membrane transport proteins have been continuous themes in my research since then.”

In addition, his current research also involves the understanding of microbiomes, or communities of microbes via the technology of metagenomics, the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples. His research groups have been making discoveries towards novel bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria, from these microbiomes.

After earning his Ph.D., Tseng received postdoctoral training at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He also previously served as the graduate coordinator in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and as a research associate in the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University.

—Geena Lawrence