Westlake Voices: Qingwei Niu

04, 2021

Email: zhangchi@westlake.edu.cn
Phone: +86-(0)571-86886861
Office of Public Affairs

In “Westlake Voices” we talk to community members about their life on campus and beyond. Today we have a short Q&A with Qingwei, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who recently joined Westlake University with the fifth cohort of PhD students with the School of Life Sciences.

Q: Why did you embark on the road of life sciences research?

During a science class at elementary school, Qingwei observed onion epidermal cells under a microscope. For the first time, she saw a world completely different from what she saw with the naked eye. From then on, she was hooked. Even a heavy school workload during middle and high school failed to push her off the road of biology research. After entering university, she jumped into a biology major and started her journey of advanced scientific research.

A: In fact, before entering the laboratory and starting to do experiments, I was a little worried. Can a novice like myself do scientific research? Am I able to have an impact like predecessors in the discipline and contribution to the field of human health?

However, [to use an old Chinese expression] it may be that the newborn calf is not afraid of tigers. I always think that young people should be bold and rush into new things.

My first project as an undergraduate was to solve a field facing challenge: how to maintain the activity of botanical metabolome during transportation, and then to discover any potential pharmaceutical value of plants. Step by step, reading the literature, and optimizing and improving experimental methods was very challenging, but finally I would see some results and feel more confident. It turns out that an ordinary person can also promote progress in certain scientific research fields.

After finishing my undergraduate studies, I understood that doing research is not about developing vague theory. Its essence is to solve problems in life. At that time, it was clear to me that I wanted to continue doing scientific research.

Q: When did you first become interested in Westlake University?

In 2018, Qingwei joined Johns Hopkins University, the alma mater of President Yigong Shi, as a master’s student to study molecular microbiology and immunology. It was also in that year that Westlake University, far away on the other side of the ocean, was approved for establishment. It was around that time that Qingwei first started to learn about this new type of research university.

A: I remember the first time listening to a speech by President Yigong Shi and feeling my heartbeat quicken.

I was deeply attracted by the educational philosophy of Westlake University, and I thought that this was the kind of university that I would want to choose.

Westlake University is committed to becoming a home for leading innovative talent with a sense of social responsibility. Westlake pays attention not only to the transmission of knowledge, but also to the development of character.

Q: How do you feel about coming to Westlake University?

A: I saw the cutting-edge scientific research capabilities of Westlake University and the deep sense of social responsibility showcased by the Westlake scientists. This made me resolutely choose to return to China and become a doctoral student at Westlake University.

After coming here, I discovered that there are many exciting things. For example, Westlake encourages interdisciplinary engagement. The architectural design of Yungu campus integrates the schools of life sciences, science, and engineering as an academic ring. This is very conducive to interdisciplinary cooperation and communication, and I find this so fascinating!

Another example, most schools rotate students within the department. The field of PIs in the same department are concentrated and similar. But at Westlake University, you can experience a wide range of scientific research topics, such as structural proteins, cell biology, nutrition projects or whatever. The diversity and richness of the scope of scientific research in the School of Life Sciences at Westlake University provides us with both the breadth and depth of academic choices.