Yuyang Wang: Investigating the Sino-Tibetan Migration with Y Haplogroup Data
Research and Work
Our research group is in the Archaeogenetics Department where most of the scientists work on anthropological and archaeological data with molecular approaches. Different research groups in the department work on diverse topics, such as genetic relationships, selective process, and genetic structure of historical and prehistorical human, plant, animal, and pathogens. During my stay, I was able to join the weekly departmental meetings and talks, participate in summer events, as well as to attend dissertation defenses of Ph.D. students. Joining these meetings and listening to all the talks and presentations was mind-opening. I was able to learn how archaeogeneticists construct research questions and investigate these questions from different perspectives with various methods. Although many people in the institute were either working remotely, in the labs, or traveling, I still got to meet a lot of scientists, students, postdoc scholars, and visiting researchers during my visit. Discussing projects and exchanging ideas with people working on materials from various periods and locations was inspiring for my own projects.
The project I was working on utilized existing data of both ancient and modern samples from East Asia. Through a series of haplotype-based computational analyses, we were able to focus on the Y chromosomal haplogroups from sequenced aDNA and then look at the specific SNP of each individual. My goal was to construct a tree that can show whether or not the individuals we analyzed share the same line of descent. I am carrying this work into my Ph.D. project so I could better visualize the population history of the Tibetan Plateau. Our group members meet up with our supervisor, Dr. Ringbauer, every Tuesday to report the progress of the projects and ask questions. We all work on our individual projects, but we could always meet up to share ideas and ask for help from each other.
Living in Leipzig
Living in Leipzig was very enjoyable and refreshing. I arrived on the last day of the Bachfest Leipzig, but the concerts and performances in the theaters and churches carried on a few days after. Following the Bachfest was the Wagner Festival with the preferences of thirteen of his famous operas. I felt that the city was filled with music the entire summer. Leipzig is not only musical, but it is also very cultural and historical. The famous Auerbachs Keller, where Goethe’s Faust and Mephistopheles travel, is located in Leipzig. I had a few traditional German meals in the cellar/restaurants with friends and lab mates and really enjoyed the historical setting. I tried to make an appointment for the walking tour of the cellar with Mephistopheles but wasn’t able to do so due to time conflicts. But there is always the next time!
Traveling in Germany and Europe
I didn’t travel a lot in the first half of the summer since work and just enjoying Leipzig kept me busy, but I took a couple of weekend trips in August to visit some friends in Europe. It has been really easy to travel around Germany by train and buses, especially with the 9-Euro tickets. But since traveling by train was kind of time-consuming, especially for weekend trips, I mostly traveled by plane. I was able to visit a friend in Basel and my Japanese professor in Lausanne, both in Switzerland. The two cities were very beautiful with slightly different cultures, Basel being a more German-speaking area on the borders of France and Germany and Lausanne in the French-speaking area on the shores of Lake Geneva. I also visited totally different sites in these two cities. I spent most of my time in a more modern area in Basal since my friend works for a pharmaceutical company where they have the tallest building in the entire city with breathtaking views. In Lausanne, I spent most of my time sitting in the parks on the shore, visiting the Olympic Museum and just walking around in the peaceful city. One of the things that I didn’t know, but probably should have, was that Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is a Schengen country. My first clue was the passport check as I was getting off the plane; then my cell phone lost all service and I couldn’t receive any calls or check the map. Luckily, I always travel with my passport and my phone company has a Swiss service that cost a little extra, but everything worked out in the end.
One of the cities I visited in Germany was Dresden. My german friends told me that Dresden is the “New Berlin” while Leipzig is the “Better Berlin.” Dresden is also in the state of Saxony and is only one hour away from Leipzig by the IC/ICE trains and about two hours by the regional train with the 9-Euro tickets. While Leipzig felt like a very compact city with a more relaxing lifestyle, Dresden felt more spread out, busy, and touristy. I imagine that being in the middle between Berlin and Prague, many travelers just stop by Dresden for a day trip on their way to these two cities. And this might also be the reason why I had the most authentic Chinese food in Dresden too (much better than the ones in Leipzig)!
Meeting up with Stanford Alumni in Berlin
Leipzig is only one hour away south of Berlin by train, and I took advantage to visit Berlin a few times this summer. Since I have been to Berlin a few times on my previous trips to Germany, I mostly just took day trips and returned to Leipzig at night. Two of my most memorable visits to Berlin were both with alumni and friends from Stanford. In early July, I joined the Stanford Garden Event at the Q Beach, celebrating the opening of the new School of Sustainability. I met many alumni living in Berlin and members of the German Stanford Association. It was a great afternoon to be outdoors in Berlin, with the breeze from the lake, great company, and delicious food.
During my last weekend in Germany, I met up with Jon, Khalilah, and Heinrich, members of the GSA, at the Kulturbrauerei in Berlin for the Berlin Beer Week. The Kulturbrauerei is located in the Prenzlauer Berg area with old industrial buildings and a brewery; and the Berlin Beer Week was a ten days craft beer festival, with live music, games, and food. I have never been to a beer festival this large, one of the indoor venues was like a huge comic con, but for beers! It was super nice to catch up with Jon, Khalilah, and Heinrich and share the stories of the summer with each other. The food and drinks tasted so much better shared with old and new friends. This last get-together was the perfect end of my summer in Germany.
My summer in Germany was both productive and fun. It has been a great learning opportunity for me at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, working under the supervision of Dr. Ringbauer. I am continuing my research on Y Haplogroups of the East Asian population and will try to incorporate it into my dissertation and other future projects. I want to express my gratitude again to the Stanford Club of Germany, the Europe Center, and everyone who helped me to make this summer in Leipzig possible!