Dr. Hwan-Ching Tai received his bachelor degree in chemistry at National Taiwan University, and PhD degree in chemistry at California Institute of Technology. His PhD thesis, supervised by Professor Erich Shuman, examined the protein composition of proteasome complexes isolated from brain synapses, using mass spectrometry analyses. He conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School under Professor Bradley Hyman, studying tau protein misfolding in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Dr. Tai is currently an associate professor at Department of Chemistry, National Taiwan University. His research group applies bioanalytical chemistry to examine the molecular pathology of Alzheimer’s disease patients, focusing on their synaptic terminals. This involves new methodology development in proteomics, metabolomics, genomics, and molecular imaging. His notable contributions include the discovery of tau protein oligomers in the synaptic terminals of Alzheimer’s disease patients and the discovery of “reader proteins” in the brain that recognize 2-oxohistidine residues (oxidative modification of histidine).
Dr. Tai is also a renowned expert on the research of antique Italian violins, especially the legendary Stradivarius instruments. How Antonio Stradivari managed to produce violins with superlative tones, still unsurpassed three centuries later, is one of the greatest mysteries in European music culture. By analyzing wood samples removed from Stradivari instruments during repairs, Dr. Tai discovered one of the master’s untold secrets—chemical treatment of wood using various mineral preservatives. He also observed age-related fiber decomposition and vibration-induced molecular rearrangement in Stradivari’s wood. Altogether, Stradivari’s wood is chemically sand structurally different from the wood used by modern violins makers. Dr. Tai’s research suggests that Stradivari’s success was not an accident, but a result of applying specific chemical treatments to regulate the process of wood aging.
Dr. Tai’s notable contributions to violin research include two recent articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. They have been reported by major news outlets including BBC Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times, The Guardian, etc. As an amateur violinist, music collector, and audiophile, Dr. Tai views violin research as an opportunity to connect chemistry and music, and to enhance public interest in chemical sciences, through a series of public lectures and TV/radio appearances.