My Graduation Story – Fit computer scientist revels in research prowess
Chris Edwards | 08/08/2020

In the tenth year of our existence, Southern University of Science and Technology (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.

For many students, they focus heavily on their academic prowess, while doing their best to look after the mental and emotional well-being. In the case of Zhaoxu ZHANG (’20, Computer Science and Engineering), he developed an excellent balance of his academic, physical, and research life. His efforts have been rewarded with a full scholarship to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California (USC).

Zhaoxu ZHANG is from Shandong Province, southeast of Beijing. He wanted to come to SUSTech because of its global outlook, high-quality educators, and abundant resources. The use of English as its primary language of instruction and the many opportunities to study overseas enhanced SUSTech’s international image in the eyes of Zhaoxu. The residential college life, incorporating life and academic tutors, would also support the guidance he felt he needed going forward as a young adult.

Speaking of his tutor, Zhaoxu ZHANG selected both tutors from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. His life tutor was Chair Professor Shuanghua YANG, who is also the Dean of the Graduate School. Despite his busy schedule, Chair Professor YANG would still meet with the students regularly. It was always an excellent opportunity to check in to ensure that the students in his care could deal with any issues going on in their lives.

Speaking of his tutor, Zhaoxu ZHANG’s tutor was Assistant Professor Yepang LIU. He was always approachable, with a serious approach to scientific research. Zhaoxu ZHANG was taught not only the craft of learning scientific research but also a high-quality way of life. Yepang LIU is highly dedicated to research and the outcomes of his students. Zhaoxu remembers that on one occasion during his junior year, Yepang LIU had ordered takeaway food for the whole laboratory. He spent the whole time reviewing and revising an accepted manuscript to ensure it would be a better paper.

It was in his sophomore year that Zhaoxu ZHANG decided to major in Computer Science and Technology. It was the influence of the freshman programming course that inspired his interest in Java programming. He was highly excited by the process of programming. He was filled with the urgent desire to eliminate bugs from his code. Later in his sophomore year, he found his way into the laboratory of Assistant Professor Yepang LIU.

Zhaoxu ZHANG found it hard balancing his coursework, scientific research, and other obligations when he first entered the laboratory. He knew he had to set his goals appropriately. Hence, he adjusted his curriculum to ensure that he would be able to achieve some targets before the end of his junior year. It gave him the space to focus on scientific research without ignoring his coursework and developing the right balance in his life.

He had excellent motivation in his own right, and the senior students also supported him in his research, while also encouraging his questions during group meetings. Zhaoxu ZHANG also read widely to expand upon his knowledge to find his direction.

One attribute that Zhaoxu ZHANG is also noted for around campus is his passion for fitness. He was regarded as the Physical King of SUSTech, being impressive at both the bench press and pull-ups. His commitment to physical fitness has helped him balance his life between academia, scientific research, and his emotional well-being.

Zhaoxu ZHANG had already decided that he wanted to study abroad during his degree, as well as once he had finished his undergraduate studies. Over one summer session, he took part in an official summer research project at the University of California Irvine (UC Irvine), called UCInspire. The ten-week research project provided Zhaoxu ZHANG with the high-intensity scientific research environment expected in American universities. He also hoped it would improve his applications for postgraduate study.

During his ten weeks at UC Irvine, he spent most of his time in the laboratory, carrying out independent scientific research projects and learning new skills. When he met with his advisor each week, he would be well prepared with a PowerPoint presentation and questions to move forward with his research. Following the summer experience, Zhaoxu ZHANG’s ability had improved dramatically, receiving a recommendation letter from the professor.

He had clearly performed well in the eyes of many universities across the United States. Of the nine applications, 8 of them made Zhaoxu ZHANG full offers to complete his Ph.D. They all valued his scientific research experience at both SUSTech and UC Irvine. While professors might not always understand his intended focus, they reminded him that there were many topics to choose. Several noted his deep understanding of his research. Zhaoxu ZHANG hopes to contribute to the development of software engineering for China on his return from completing his Ph.D. and further studies.

Looking back on the last four years, he wants to thank several people. Firstly, his academic tutor Yepang LIU, for supporting his scientific research and providing him with the rigorous mentality to move forward in academia. Secondly, counselor Lianjun WANG from Zhicheng College, who has always guided him from his first day to his last day on campus. Finally, his girlfriend Yutong WANG, who he met in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. They met in the same department, studied in the US together, and will study their Ph.D.s together. Their intertwined lives see them encourage each other, share the best and worst of life, and make progress together.

Zhaoxu ZHANG believes that coming to SUSTech changed his life completely. There are so many things that would be different if it were not for him coming all the way south. His mentality and vision have grown, and he has met new role models while developing new personal skills that have seen him find his goal in life.

2020, 08-08
By Chris Edwards

From the Series

Graduate Stories

Proofread ByYingying XIA

Photo BySupplied, Yan QIU

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