PhD life at Westlake: Graduated from London, I found my place in Hangzhou

14, 2020

Email: fengyi@westlake.edu.cn
Phone: +86-(0)571-85270350
Office of Public Affairs

Jiaming Liang is a PhD student enrolled since 2019. Having graduated in Molecular Plant and Microbial Science from Imperial College London, Liang was often asked, “why did you choose Westlake University?”


Liang’s encounter with Westlake University happened out of curiosity. She was impressed by its vision and new concepts and started preparing for the application and interview. A few months later, Liang was recruited by the School of Life Sciences.


Before the new semester began in August, newcomers are supposed to go through a rotation between labs. That coincided with Liang’s thesis deadline. After negotiation with her tutor and the school, she was allowed to participate remotely. The lab rotation at the School of Life Sciences usually involves two or three rounds. Except participating remotely in the first round, Liang finished the two other rounds on Yunqi campus where she ultimately decided on Dan Ma’s lab.


Dr. Dan Ma’s research focuses on protein structures and functions and differed from what Liang has studied in her bachelor and master program. Though, both fall under the category of life sciences, the two majors differ greatly in methodology and experiment design.


“In the past, I would come up with a hypothesis, prove it, then design the next steps according to the result. However, the inspirer of structural biology would be, focusing on those biological problems remain to be solved and try to offer clues on molecular level by providing structural information.”


Liang is taking her time to settle in this new field. Dr. Ma’s lab is equipped with state-of-the-art electron microscopy and mass spectrum tools, but it also takes time and experience to learn how to approach a research topic, design the experiment, develop practical skills and analyze the data.


“There is enough to learn on experimenting itself. In the past, I would not have notice those details that affect yield when extracting proteins. Matters such the calculation of as how many liters of protein can I extract from how many liters of cells, or how much I would lose in the process of extraction were simply not my concerns. I became a lot more detail-oriented after joining Dr. Ma’s lab. The devil is in the details when it comes to life sciences.”


Currently, there are only three schools at Westlake University: School of Life Sciences , School of Science and School of Engineering. No wonder the campus is full of scientific minds, but that doesn’t stop them from having an artistic side.


“I love Cezanne, and I am a big fan of the mobile works of Alexander Calder. I am also fascinated by the Chinese classical culture, such as the theory of harmonious fusion between humanity and nature promoted by the Hui architecture. The ink paintings of Guanzhong Wu and Da Zhu are also my favorites,” said Liang.


Liang’s passion for art has been adding a romantic touch to her scientific journey, “I don’t know where the future will lead me, but I would like to find out."