Biochemistry faculty profile – Assistant Professor Ci Ji Lim

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, go to school, your influences?

I grew up on the small sunny island of Singapore. After my national service, I went to Nanyang Technological University for my undergraduate degree in theoretical physics and then to the National University of Singapore for my Ph.D. studies in experimental single-molecule biophysics.

Where did you carry out your postdoctoral research?

I left Singapore for the United States for my postdoctoral training in Professor Tom Cech’s lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

As a child, who was your biggest influence?

My mother, who always gave me the freedom to explore and pursue my interest. Very unusual for a parent in Singapore!

Why did you decide to study science?

It is my curiosity in wanting to understand how things work and also the challenges involved—basically playing a computer game designed by nature.

Why did you come to Madison? When?

I only recently came to Madison in August 2020. I have always heard of great things in Madison and what a beautiful city it is. It has so many lakes that sometimes I feel like I am back in Singapore (in Summer here, of course!). The most important things are the fantastic research performed in UW-Madison, the resources, and the wonderful colleagues in our department.

What do you like most about being a professor?

The freedom to pursue my research interest and also the ability to elevate and shape the next generation of scientists.

What is the focus of your research?

Generally, anything that involves protein-nucleic acid interactions. My lab’s main focus now is on human telomere biology research.

What do you consider your major accomplishments?

Being the first to show how to reconstitute the human telomeric protein complex, shelterin. And using cryo-electron microscopy to solve the human CST complex’s atomic structure, another essential telomeric protein-nucleic acid complex.

What advice would you provide to a new assistant professor who is just starting his/her career?

Be prepared to be multi-dimensional and wear many hats.

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite place in Madison?

Be at home with my family, playing with the kids, and fishing and soccer. My favorite place(s) in Madison would be anywhere outdoor and by the lakes.

Favorite Quote and Also the Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

“Learn the form, but seek the formless.”

Friends Describe Me

Quiet but funny

Fantasy Dinner Guests

Richard Feynman, Tony Stark, and my family

My Undergrad Alma Mater

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

My Worst Subject In School


If I Weren’t A Professor, I Would

Be a soccer manager

In College I Drove

Cars are too expensive for college students in Singapore!

Favorite Books

John Grisham and Tom Clancy books.

Favorite City

Singapore, Boulder, and Madison

Favorite Movies

3 Idiots

Favorite Coffee

Black coffee

Current Research

Investigating the human telomere maintenance mechanism

My Latest Accomplishment

Setting up a lab, buying a house, moving to a new home twice(!), and welcoming our third kid all during the COVID pandemic

Nobody Knows I…

I have an identical twin brother who is a professor in quantum information in Singapore