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From China to the UK – an interview with Chengting Zhang

Posted by , on 28 July 2022


Chengting Zhang is a PhD student in the laboratory of Professor Steffen Scholpp at the Living Systems Institute, UK. Originally from China, Chengting came to the UK in 2018 after being awarded joint funding from the University of Exeter and the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to carry out her PhD project investigating the role of Wnt protein transport during zebrafish development.

We spoke to Chengting about what it was like to move from her home country in China to start a PhD abroad and to hear her advice for other early-career researchers thinking of making the same move.

We invite you to share your own stories on the Node. To hear more about how we support early-career researchers take a look at our website and we encourage China-based audiences to follow The Company of Biologists WeChat channel!


When did you decide to do a PhD?
您在何时决定要攻读博士学位?

When I was a graduate student, I made the decision to pursue a PhD. Since graduate education in China typically lasts three years and I had little direct experience with experiments throughout my undergraduate studies, I became really interested in research when I was able to produce some experimental results. Naturally, this was partly a result of my master’s supervisor’s encouragement, who suggested that I try to apply for CSC in order to study overseas for my doctoral degree.

最开始决定读博,是在研究生时期。因为国内的研究生一般三年制,本科也没怎么实质性接触过实验,所以当在研究生时期能做出一些实验性成果时,让自己对研究产生了极大的兴趣。当然这也少不了我硕士导师的鼓励,并建议说读博可以试试申请CSC 出国读博,那也是第一次我接触到CSC

How did you decide where to go for your project?
您如何确定了自己研究的课题?

After speaking with my master’s supervisor, I also believed that pursuing a PhD while studying overseas would be a particularly positive experience. After having this notion, I talked about it and listened to what my family and friends had to say. The reaction I received was quite encouraging, so I ultimately opted to pursue my PhD abroad. Regarding how I came across the current project, it’s because Steffen, my PhD supervisor, is also interested in recruiting CSC students, and I choose this topic since I believe I can successfully tackle it.

通过与硕士导师交流后,也觉得出国读博确实是一个很好的经历。有了这个想法后,也和家人朋友都商量过,听取了他们的意见,获得的反馈都是很支持的,所以最后决定要出国读博。至于怎么发现如今的课题,是因为现在博士导师Steffen也是有意向招收CSC学生,然后涉及的课题也是自己思量后觉得自己是能胜任的,所以就选择了这个课题

What was the process of applying for your scholarship?
申请奖学金的过程是否艰难?

I read several pieces of advice on the Xiaomuchong app before deciding to apply to CSC and pursue my PhD abroad. The first step was to begin IELTS preparation because passing the English language exam is a prerequisite for travelling abroad. When I received the language results, I quickly wrote an email to the tutor I was interested in. At the same time, I also gathered other experience articles on the Internet. Fortunately, Steffen responded to my emails in a very positive manner and was very helpful to me throughout the application process. For example, he corrected the PowerPoint I used for my interview and provided me with the files I needed for my application. The procedure is generally as follows: passing a language test – reaching out to potential tutors – college interview – receiving an offer – CSC application.

当我决定要通过申请CSC出国读博时,就在小木虫上看各种攻略。首先第一点则是开始复习雅思IELTS,因为语言成绩是出国的首要条件;

与此同时,也在网上收集各种经验贴,在拿到语言结果的时候,立马给自己感兴趣的导师发了邮件。幸好Steffen回复的邮件很积极,在我申请过程中帮助了我很多,比如帮我批改面试ppt, 非常积极即使的提供申请所需要的资料。总的来说需要的一个过程是:语言成绩—联系意向导师—学院面试—拿到offer—申请CSC

What was it like moving to a new country?
生活在另一个国家是一种什么样的感觉?

When I first received the scholarship, I was still anxious about it because I would be travelling to a nation with a totally different culture to do my PhD. When I initially came to the UK, I found it difficult to control my tears and thought I would be all alone. Fortunately, during the adjustment time, my PhD supervisor was really kind and my colleagues also looked out for me, so I gradually improved. The most important thing is that you don’t have to think about other things as much while you are seriously engaged in study. Naturally, none of this would be possible without the help of my family and friends.

With reaching the end of my PhD, I’ve developed considerably and become a more mature person.

最开始拿到奖学金的时候,心里还是很期待的,因为自己即将去一个文化差异很大的国家读博。当刚到英国的那一刻,自己还是没忍住哭了,那一刻才真正的觉得,以后就是自己一个人了。在过渡期中,幸好博导人非常好,实验室的同事也都对我照顾有佳,慢慢的也就好了起来。最主要的是,当你认真投身科研的时候,也没有那么多思想去想其他的。当然这也少不了家人朋友的支持。此次读博经历,让我自己成长了很多,人也成熟了

What is your PhD project?
您在博士阶段的研究课题是什么?

My PhD research uses zebrafish as a model to examine the mechanism of Wnt signalling. The main focus of the research is on the transmission of Wnt/PCP signalling Wnt5b from generating cells to receiving cells, the interaction of the receptor Ror2 and ligand Wnt5b, and the impact of Wnt/PCP on zebrafish growth and development.

我的博士课题:以斑马鱼为模型,研究Wnt信号的传导机制。最主要的研究Wnt/PCP signalling Wnt5b 是如何从producing cells 传导到receiving cells的,以及配体Wnt5b 和受体Ror2的关系,以及Wnt/PCP 对斑马鱼生长发育的影响

How has your PhD experience been?
您如何评价自己读博的经历?

Because I had a fantastic and great supervisor, a terrific research environment, and solid research findings overall, I had an excellent PhD experience. I also gained a lot of knowledge. Along with learning, I also developed my mental faculties and social abilities.

我的博士经历总的来说是极好的,因为我有一个很好很好的导师,很棒的研究环境,在研究上也取得了好的研究成果。更多的是学习到了很多知识,除了学习,自己也磨练了心智,提升了自己与人相处的技能,如果要给此次英国博士之行打分,总分100分,我会给自己打95

What advice would you give to other early-career scientists planning to do research abroad?
对计划出国从事研究并处于职业生涯早期的其他科学家,您有何建议?

My recommendation is to give it your best because you won’t regret it. Research still largely revolves around the research platform. If you choose a foreign university, all things are excellent, but if you’re frightened to travel overseas, my advice is to still be daring and give it a shot because it’s also regarded as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

我的建议是,自己想做的事,就全力以赴的去做就不会后悔。科研还是很看重研究平台,如果你选择了一个国外的院校,各方面都很优秀,但就是害怕出国的话,我的建议还是可以大胆尝试的,毕竟这也算人生中的一次难忘的经历

What are your plans for the future?
您未来有什么计划?

Since there is a solid platform for biological research at my master’s university, my current aim is to go back to my previous institution after I return to China, where I will continue to conduct research in the future.

现目前的计划是回国后回硕士母校, 因为那里有很好的生物研究平台,所以自己以后还是会继续投身科研中

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Categories: Careers, Interview, Lab Life, Research

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