Flossie Wong-Staal Biography (1947-)

Chinese, American

Wong is considered one of the world's top experts in viruses and a codiscoverer of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but her interest in science did not come naturally.

Born as Yee Ching Wong in communist mainland China, she fled with her familyin 1952 to Hong Kong, where she entered an all-girls Catholic school. When students there achieved good grades, they were steered into scientific studies.The young Wong had excellent marks, but initially had no plans of becoming ascientist. Against her expectations, she gradually fell in love with science. Another significant result of attending the private school was the changingof her name. The school encouraged Wong to adopt an English name. Her father, who did not speak English, chose the name Flossie from newspaper accounts of Typhoon Flossie, which had struck Hong Kong the previous week. For many years, the name was an embarrassment to her.

Even though none of Wong's female relatives had ever gone to college or university (all were housewives), her family enthusiastically supported her education and in 1965 she went to the United States to study at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1968, Wong graduated magna cum laude with a B.A.in bacteriology, also obtaining a doctorate in molecular biology in 1972.

During postgraduate work at the university's San Diego campus in 1971-72, Wong married and added Staal to her name. The marriage eventually ended in divorce.

In 1973, Wong-Staal moved to Bethesda, Maryland, where she worked at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) with AIDS pioneer Robert Gallo, studying retroviruses--the mysterious family of viruses to which HIV belongs. Searching for acause for the newly discovered AIDS epidemic, Gallo, Wong-Staal and other NCIcolleagues identified HIV in 1983, simultaneously with a French researcher.In 1985, Wong-Stall was responsible for the first cloning of HIV. Her effortsalso led to the first genetic mapping of the virus, allowing eventual development of tests that screen patients and donated blood for HIV.

In 1990, the Institute for Scientific Information declared Wong-Staal as thetop woman scientist of the previous decade, and the fourth-ranked scientist under the age of 45.

That same year, Wong-Staal returned to the University of California at San Diego to continue her AIDS research. Four years later, the university created anew Center for AIDS Research, headed by Wong-Staal. There, she has worked tofind both vaccines against HIV and a cure for AIDS, using the new technologyof gene therapy.

User Contributions:

Aletha Andrews
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Sep 6, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
Wong Staal is a true inspiration in so many different ways.From her struggles in childhood to the never ending race to find a cure for AIDS, Wong Staal is a remarkable woman. And with her struggles, she has had an enormous impact n the lives of millions. There will never be enough money in the world that can be given for the work she has done.
Jessie Joiner
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Sep 4, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
Wong started out with so many different directions in her life, first she and her family had to flee their birth home, to find some kind of life in another part of her world, then sent to an all girl's Catholic school and strived to achieve good grades, then steered into scientific studies, that Wong herself had no expectations of becoming a scientist but ended up loving what she was doing, Wong even had to put up with the embarrassment of being forced to be named after a Typhoon. she was the only female in her family to ever go to college,and still she pushed on, Wong came to the United States to study at a university also she married and divorced, she still pushed on, to become Wong-Staal a top woman scientist and ranked the fourth scientist under the age of 45.Wong continued her study into the AIDS research, the university created a new center for which Wong headed to find vaccines for (HIV) AND (AIDS) using new technology of gene therapy. What a woman!!! this story just makes me want to reach out a hug her, and I would tell her what a good example you have set for all of the women all over the world. I could not even begin to think of my self going threw what she has went threw in her life time.

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