My Graduation Story – crossing disciplines and a river to the future
Chris Edwards | 06/02/2020

In the tenth year of our existence, Southern University of Science (SUSTech) has been supported by its three pillars of “Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.” As our student community has passed through our campus over the years, they have excelled in many areas.

One young lady who has made waves in her own right is Yuqing DENG (’20, Biomedical Engineering). Studying under Associate Professor Tang BIN, she spent her senior year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her next step will see her take the near-mile long walk across the Charles River to Boston University to complete her Ph.D. under a full scholarship.

Yuqing DENG graduated near the top of her class at Xianggang No. 1 High School in Hunan Province. Living in the same city and, in fact, close to the school, she was not a boarding student like most of her classmates and generally went home for lunch every day. Nearly all the students that came to SUSTech from Hunan came from her school or one of the three other top schools.

The selection of SUSTech was an easy one for Yuqing DENG. SUSTech provides an environment that supports independent learning in a pleasant environment. She had no hesitation in signing up for SUSTech – it was more about SUSTech rejecting her than her rejecting SUSTech.

When Yuqing DENG first went looking for a life tutor, she found support in Associate Professor Jixian ZHAI (Biology). She said that she wanted to find a direction in biology since that was what interested her most while she was in high school. She found a kindred spirit in Jixian ZHAI at the Zhicheng College freshman birthday party, and so was taken under his wing.

His kindness and understanding were on display when Yuqing DENG was looking for a major. She knew that she wanted to do something related to the biological sciences. However, she believed that fundamental biological research would be monotonous for her and her personality. A conversation between Yuqing DENG and Associate Professor Jixian ZHAI led her towards biomedical engineering. As an interdisciplinary field, it would allow her to experiment in areas such as bioelectronic materials, computer sciences, mathematics, and chemistry while allowing her to solve medical problems.

This led to a new challenge for Yuqing DENG, as she now had to look for a tutor that could support her academic pursuits. After several conversations with biomedical engineers, her final choice was Tang BIN, an associate professor whose expertise lies in biomechanics, biological materials, and nanometer materials.

Yuqing DENG said that Tang BIN was a unique mentor, in that he could place the right suggestion in a person’s mind, just at the right time. She recalled that at one point, during her junior year, she had to achieve many things in a short space of time. These included tests and foreign exchange applications, and she was lost about where to start. Yuqing DENG asked to speak with Tang BIN to try to find a solution. While she doesn’t remember exactly what was said, she knows her mind was significantly clearer after the conversation than before it.

In terms of her time in the laboratory, Yuqing DENG spent her junior year learning from the senior students and quickly adapting to life in the laboratory. She admitted with some shyness that she did not read the documents she was supposed to read before entering the laboratory. Still, it did not stop here from learning how to use the equipment and start conducting her experiments. Working with her older colleagues gave her more confidence and a more independent scientific spirit.

Yuqing DENG believes that scientific skills are easy to learn, and repetitive practice makes perfect. However, it is more important to develop scientific logic through reading through the literature and understanding scientific papers to verify conclusions properly.

At the end of her junior year, Yuqing DENG was fortunate enough to be selected to be one of six students to partake in a year-long exchange under the SUSTech-MIT Centers for Mechanical Engineering Research and Education. While the course content was highly challenging, the teaching assistants were always willing to help and answer questions that were put to them. She also took advantage of the many unusual courses on offer to learn things that were completely unrelated to her original course pathway, enhancing her skillset.

Another resource offered at MIT that Yuqing DENG found extremely helpful was the MIT Communication Lab. It is centered in their School of Engineering, and as they call it themselves:

The Communication Lab is a discipline-specific peer-coaching program for MIT’s School of Engineering that helps graduate students with their scientific writing, speaking, and visual design.

It offers significant assistance to its engineering students in a wide variety of communication techniques, including personal statements, general career skills, scientific writing, visual and oral communication of science, and even science policy. For Yuqing DENG, such an outlet was essential to corral her ideas into a coherent and logical manner. She was able to express her motivation and make it clear what she had achieved in her four years of academia.

Looking back, she is grateful for so many people at SUSTech. Yuqing DENG is most thankful to SUSTech for providing her with the platform to become the independent woman that she is today. She still knows there is a long way to go in her journey, but SUSTech has helped lay the foundation that will see her climb higher in biomedicine into the future.

2020, 06-02
By Chris Edwards

From the Series

Graduate Stories

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Translated and Adapted By SUSTech Newshub

Proofread ByYingying XIA

Photo BySupplied, Yan Qiu


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