My Graduation Story – From SUSTech to Cambridge
Chris Edwards | 05/11/2020

Linying SHANG (’20, Chemistry) is an outstanding student who has loved her life at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), before deciding to continue her academic pursuits at the University of Cambridge. She has lived a full campus life, playing the Guzheng (a traditional Chinese stringed instrument), and being a consistent volunteer across campus. Linying SHANG strives for excellence in an open-minded, active, and uncompromising approach to probing research, as she has built her dreams.

Linying SHANG was first introduced to SUSTech when a professor came to visit her high school. She learned about the “6+3+1 Comprehensive Evaluation Admission Mode” and the atmosphere of scientific research through campus. This environment captured the imagination of Linying SHANG, as she would be able to get into research laboratories at the earliest opportunity.

When she was finally accepted into SUSTech, she reflected on her chemistry prowess in high school, before selecting Chair Professor Chongyang LIU as her tutor. She first met her tutor at a student project report meeting, where older students reported on their research projects. Chair Professor LIU did not ignore the new students, engaging with them to answer questions and think about their fundamental principles.

Linying SHANG found her initiative and motivation through an unexpected English riddle. By responding in English with her answer to the riddle, she began further correspondence with Chair Professor Chongyang LIU, which led to a discussion about course selection and school life. He pointed out that scientific research can happen at any time, saying, “As long as you want to figure something out, you can do it from morning to night every day.”

As she progressed through her scientific studies, she truly understood what it was like to devote herself to the research life. It did not matter the time or the day, but Chair Professor Chongyang LIU took great care of his mentees and their experimental processes. He encouraged independence, in that he wanted them to learn from practice, solve problems on their own as part of their comprehensive and holistic education.

Chair Professor Chongyang LIU instilled a generalist education style into Linying SHANG’s specialist chemistry education. While she could understand problems at the molecular and atomic levels, she had no qualms with setting up and advancing instruments, writing computer programs, and running verification tests late into the night.

Linying SHANG joined the group during the summer vacation in her freshman year, where the senior students and graduate students were excellent role models for her. She reflected on her responsibility as a senior student, operating as a role model for those fresh faces joining the research group. As a new scholar, she would regularly ask for help from those more experienced, who always offered much support and encouraged her to keep trying.

The entire Chemistry department is very approachable, with faculty members always available to talk to students and encourage them in their various research endeavors. They would also assist students with their grant and overseas studies applications. Students would also work together for mutual learning.

Linying SHANG formed a study group in her junior year with several of her classmates. This study group became central to learning and supporting each other. Their connection was formed through several different student clubs, which helped the group get a better understanding of their studies, helping break through barriers in their theoretical knowledge.

She has also been highly committed to volunteering and assisting the SUSTech community. She supported the Center for Language Education (CLE) as a student assistant. As a student assistant, Linying SHANG assisted with paperwork, translated for the foreign lecturers, and took the opportunity to practice her oral English skills. She also assisted at the 2018 Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Summit, where she was able to improve her English skills.

Not only did Linying SHANG take the opportunity to practice her skills in China, but she was able to go on exchange to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the most prestigious universities in the world. She applied for the Cross-disciplinary Scholars in Science & Technology program (CSST), which is a summer scientific research program. It was a challenging project, as she had to join a research group and start a project from scratch under a specific, allotted timeframe with limited data outcomes. Despite the difficulties she faced, Linying SHANG was able to lay the foundation for future experiments by maximizing the effectiveness of each successive experiment, continually refining processes and procedures.

The doctoral candidate in charge of her CSST project complimented Linying SHANG, saying that “She is more productive than us.” Linying SHANG’s endeavor was acknowledged by the principal investigator of the group, with Linying SHANG received a recommendation letter from her.

Looking back on her time at SUSTech, she was reminded of a lecture given by Mrs. Zhuo LI. She encouraged the students to analyze Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University, titled, “You’ve got to find what you love.” His first story of connecting the dots referred to why he dropped out of college and how it related to his family life. In that story, he spoke of dropping into a calligraphy class, and the impact it had on the fonts we use every day. In his speech, he said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

As long as you have a flash of interest or some occasional curiosity, you never know when you can implement that idea. One day, you will realize that your past efforts will be central to what you want to achieve, and that is the underlying message that Linying SHANG wants to send to the SUSTech community.

Message from the tutor (Chair Professor Chongyang LIU):

Linying SHANG is diligent and hardworking, inheriting and carrying forward the persevering scientific research spirit of previous undergraduate students. She has taken part in cutting-edge scientific research. Last year, through long-term unremitting efforts, she successfully broke through a bottleneck in her scientific research and made significant progress.

2020, 05-11
By Chris Edwards

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