Office Hours with… Mengfei Liu

Yale physician scientist Mengfei Liu discusses liver disease research, what she’s looking forward to in her second year at Yale, and her favorite soccer player.
Mengfei Liu

Mengfei Liu

When she began the search for her first faculty job, Dr. Mengfei Liu, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, looked for strong mentorship and institutional support for early-career researchers like herself. She found those at Yale.

That New Haven came with milder winters than those she was used to in Minnesota was just a bonus.

As a physician scientist, Liu treats patients and studies alcohol-associated liver disease, conditions that currently lack effective treatments. In her spare time, you can find her cheering on the professional soccer team Inter Miami or trying to resist the temptation of New Haven pizza.

We caught up with Liu for our latest edition of Office Hours, a series that introduces newcomers to the broader Yale community.

Title Assistant Professor of Medicine (Digestive Diseases)
Research interest Alcohol-associated liver disease
Prior institution Mayo Clinic
Started at Yale March 2023

How would you describe your research interests?

Mengfei Liu: I study alcohol-associated liver disease. Alcohol use disorder is very prevalent in the U.S. — alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the country — and has become a bigger problem in the age of the pandemic.

I’m particularly interested in a severe form of liver inflammation called alcohol-associated hepatitis. When it’s severe, patients have a high mortality rate, up to 30% within the first three months. These patients are typically young and previously healthy. And oftentimes there’s no effective treatment other than liver transplantation, and many patients won’t qualify for that. So we really urgently need effective treatment for this disease.

What brought you to Yale?

Liu: When I finished my training in 2022, I knew that I wanted to be a physician scientist, to have my own lab and run independent research. So I applied for and received a National Institutes of Health career development grant and looked for a place with a great environment for young faculty like myself. I particularly wanted good mentorship in the area of liver disease and strong institutional support, and our division here at Yale is really great at supporting young investigators to develop a career in basic science research.

I also wanted to explore this side of the country. I have been in Rochester, Minnesota for eight years and grew up in the region. And I wanted to live on the East Coast for a little bit.

What are you looking forward to in your second year?

Liu: I just recently filled a few positions in the lab, and we have a lot of projects we’re working on. I’m really excited to push our projects forward.

I also hope our work becomes more visible to people who might be interested in doing basic science research. Whether they’re med students, undergraduates, fellows, or residents, I hope they consider joining us.

More generally, I hope that other young physicians consider this physician scientist career path. The clinical side and research side are synergistic, and if people think they might be interested in research at all, they should give it a try and see if it’s for them.

Now that you’ve spent a year in this part of the country — what’s the verdict?

Liu: It’s been a very nice, welcoming place. We live in Wooster Square, and I like that it’s walkable to work. There’s a very good food scene in and around New Haven. It’s also nice to be somewhere with a mild winter.

Do you have a favorite restaurant?

Liu: We like Zeneli for pizza and I’ve lost count how many times we’ve been to Gioia since they opened. Being in Wooster Square makes ordering pizza very tempting. Every day you walk home and it’s on your mind. It takes a lot of power not to cave in!

What do you like to do for fun?

Liu: My husband and I enjoy board games, particularly escape room-type puzzles. We also like soccer, especially now that Lionel Messi is playing in the U.S. Once it gets warmer, we’ll make more trips to New York City; we like the Chinese and other ethnic food around the Flushing, Queens area.

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