Fu Xiangdong: exploring science and understanding Life-Wuhan University
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Fu Xiangdong: exploring science and understanding Life
Author:Ma Bailu, Cai Yahan, Xiao Shan  Date:2018-05-17  Clicks:

Fu Xiangdong is a Professor from School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in University of California San Diego, and a Distinguished Professor of School of Life Sciences in Wuhan University. On 23rd April, Prof. Fu returned to Wuhan University, where he gained his bachelor’s degree 26 years ago, to deliver a speech on his journey of scientific research and his understanding of life. Here is the excerpt of Fu’s speech.

From Rice Field to Wuhan University

I had been in the rice field since my junior middle school life and I used to be an expert at almost all peasant work. It seemed that I could have spent my entire life there until the day when I got the access to a full-day education as a senior middle school student. Back then, every student cherished this hard-won opportunity. We were thirsty for knowledge and studied hard day in and day out.

Then, the resumption of college entrance examination changed my life. My excitement of receiving the letter of admission from Wuhan University was beyond words. This letter was like a ticket to Eden where I started my dream.

The years in Wuhan University is a golden period in my life, where I enjoyed the most fascinating campus in China, with cherry blossoms in spring and maples in autumn. At that time, we student were allowed to study in the Old Library, and it was really a popular study area. When it was too hot in summer, we would grab our bedclothes to the roof of the dormitory, starring at the starry sky and listening to bugs chirp.

Overcoming Hardships with a Strong Mind

In 1982, I participated in the China–United States Biochemistry Examination (CUSBEA) and Application. All my classmates passed the exam except me. I got 135 points in one subject but 19 in the other. Though suspicious of the incredible grade, I could do nothing since re-checking the exam papers was not allowed at that time.

I was in a dilemma. Back then, there was no job allocation or opportunity for postgraduate programs at home and abroad. I was desperate, with no idea what to do next.

It was Academician Gao Shangmeng that decided to help me. He wrote a letter to gain me the permit to review the papers. And it turned out that I actually scored 125 in the second paper, 19 being my candidate number, which was mistakenly taken as my grades.

But for the help from my teachers and classmates’, my academic career would have probably aborted in 1982. However, I made it with a strong mind and a tenacious heart, daring to confront trials and tribulations. This is the silver bullet for everyone to get through the hardships in life.

Blessed with Masters’ Guidance

I was fortunate to receive guidance from some great masters. One is Academician Gao Shangmeng, a specialist in virology and Vice President of Wuhan University then. He was my tutor and his letter saved my academic career. Another master I want to mention is biochemist Professor Wu Rui. He forged the CUSBEA program, the exact program that offered me the chance to further study abroad and made who I am today.

Master is the soul of a university, whose single enlightening words are likely to have great impacts on the young scholars with foreseeing instructions, broad visions and warmhearted encouragement.

Master is an abstract concept instead of a specific person. Master is admired for his/her personality, which however constitutes different images into people’s mind. There may be master with various personalities, but they always have something shared.

Masters are manifested in details. Genuine masters do not stand out in appearance but their perseverance on weigh details tends to be extraordinary. In experiments, they are able to make crucial breakthrough by observing the slightest disparities in statistics. Also, they are always the one of great kindness. True masters are approachable and gracious without an arrogant humor. They can inspire your potential from deep inside and encourage your creative thinking without pushing you hard. To sum up, their guidance is unconscious but influential.

Seven Key Words of Scientific Research

Thinking. The key to scientific research is extensive and visionary thinking. Transforming thoughts into motives for experiments is the enduring source of science exploration.

Questioning. Scientific research is an endless exploration. When a problem occurs, try to put forward another. Only through continuous questioning can you lead the entire research towards a clear and logical direction and feel motivated. There is no end for science as there is always another problem waiting for you.

Courage. Do not restrict yourself in a narrow field. Nothing is impossible as long as you have the courage and desire. Without in-depth exploration, you will never achieve what you long for.

Down to the earth. As long as you make full use of every day, victory will be around the corner. Life science is a wilderness with many unearthed spots, waiting for generations of scientists to discover its secrets.

Seize the opportunity. The most pleasant things about scientific research are opportunities and coincidences. When you begin to doubt yourself after groping in the dark for a long time, the twists and turns can turn out to be surprises. This is destiny’s greatest reward to scientists.

Tenacity. It is normal that you feel doubtful about your current research as nobody can guarantee that the project will always work out. You need to face the truth and not allow the worries to defeat your confidence.

Detachment. Focus on the job in hand, and leave the rest behind. Find your interests, be curious and enthusiastic and feel free of worries. Now that we pursue after pure science and feel the value of the project, we should not be kidnapped by the immediate benefits at the market.

(Rewritten by Zhong Weile, Edited by Zheng Lingling, Shen Yuxi, Liu Xiaoli)


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