Just follow your heart –Interview with Professor Zhou Min

She graduated from Cambridge University with her doctoral degree, under the supervising of Professor Dudley H Williams, academician of Royal Society, England. After that, she worked in Cambridge University as the director of mass-spectrometry lab with department of Chemistry and Oxford University as the group leader of proteome discipline, following another academician of Royal Society, Professor Carol V Robinson. She used to participate in the research work of several key British and European programs, and instruct numbers of British Doctoral students.

She published 31 academic papers with more than 1100 times SCI reference, in top international journals and magazines, like Science (First Author) , Nature Chemistry (First Author and Correspondent Author), 12 of which had impact factor higher than 10.

In 2013, she came back to her motherland and chose to work fulltime in Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NUST). She was hired as Distinguished Professor, Zijin Scholar, and was selected to Program of Young Global Expert. Later October this year, she and her team both were selected to Jiangsu Shuangchuang Plan.

She is Zhou Min, young professor with School of Chemal Engineering, NUST.




Explore Life Mystery with Mass-spectrometry Methodology

Early in her university year in Nanjing University, she was fascinated by life science, which was also the reason she chose bio-chemistry as her research direction. Later her experience pursuing master degree following the guidance of Professor Hua Zichun, director of National Medicine Key Lab with Nanjing Univeristy, opened the door for her to modern life science. What’s more, during her doctoral and after-doctoral life in England, she fortunately applied for the supervision of two academicians with Royal Society, whose ideas and attitude towards research and life benefited her the most.

In recent years, her research on the mass-spectrometry methodology of membrane protein system and lipid combination effect creates a brand-new way to the research of membrane protein complex. The relative research result published in Science was selected as highlight article and was highly criticized by world-known scholars, among whom Professor Robert Graham, academician of Australian and Denmark Academy of Science, regarded her research as one of the most important findings in fundamental biology this year.

Although Zhou Min could choose the well-off research and living life in Cambridge University, she still determined to return and join in NUST. In her heart, Motherland is the final home should there be one. Soon after the settle-down in NUST, she co-formed an interdisciplinary and inter-college research team with Professor Tang Weihua, Associate Professor Jiang Chao with School of Chemical Engineering and Professor Yang Shijian with School of Environmental and Biological Engineering. The team aims to develop the research methodology to measure the dynamic change of internal micro-environment, so as to benefit the development and research of domestic large-size life analysis instrument and break the foreign country’s monopoly.

Zhou said, comparing with high-level academic paper, she prefers to do things with actual benefit, for example, push the development of mass-spectrometry research in one field. Speaking of the impression of NUST, Professor Zhou would do anything but hide her preference towards NUST students. She thought students here owned excellent foundation of study and hoped students with different major background could join her team to explore life mystery together.

How to Face Failure - the Most Precious Fortune Cambridge and Oxford Left to Me

Professor Zhou Min was one of the few Chinese scientists who experienced two world top universities by herself. Speaking of the two well-known universities, she felt that research atmosphere in Cambridge was relatively more relaxed and free innovative academic research was encouraged, while in Oxford, it was of preciseness. Everything goes with strict regulation and rules. As for the similarity, they both own great scientific research atmosphere. In the labs and offices of Cambridge and Oxford, everyone is busy with their research. In such a surrounding, you cannot help setting tasks and goals for yourself. Zhou said to students that there is no requirement for doctoral thesis in these two universities, but it will not be easy to pass.

Apart from her research results, Zhou said, the biggest benefit she obtained during her stay in Cambridge and Oxford is how to face failure. In Cambridge and Oxford, supervisors just present a research direction for their graduate students, and let themselves do all the experiments, gather and analyze all data, and summarize research results. Supervisor would never teach you how to do the experiments, not to say the result.

She said, sometimes it is lucky to succeed one time after one hundred failures. You may even lose the courage to get up from the bed after straight fail experiments. But after your thinking about the experiment in bed, you may also be excited to walk into the lab with some enlightening solution. Sometimes, she would also complain to her supervisor about the predicament of the research, but the professor always comforted her by saying: “No big deal. It is not the end of the world!” True, scientific exploration allows failures. Isn’t human being’s right outlook upon nature and itself founded on the basis of numerous failures?

Among those bridges on the River Cam, as for which one is “Kangqiao” described by Xu Zhimo, Zhou is confused even now. But rowing the raft in River Cam and viewing the beautiful architecture with more than 800 years history is her dearest Cambridge scenery.

Enjoy Everyday Life

Speaking of firm research faith and unyielding perseverance, she said they were all flattering compliments. She is actually a normal person with a little perfectionism.

Associate Professor Lu Yingfu, Zhou’s husband, owns the stage about her perfectionism. He said, whatever it is, once it is started, Zhou will make it best. Once in England, in order to make her husband a native Shaomai, steamed dumpling, she firstly purchased various glutinous rices from several Chinese supermarkets, searched different kinds of recipe online, and finally found the best way to cook the delicious Shaomai. Now, she cooks well, and is good at baking.

About the hard-making choice, Zhou said she tended to cool herself down and follow her heart. After her doctoral graduation in 2005, where she could choose to do after-doctoral research was a big problem. At that time, she had three choices, go to Holland, Singapore, or leave in Cambridge. She went to her supervisor and told him her idea. He just smiled and said to her, you already had your answer, just follow your heart. Now Zhou Min would also encourage her students to follow their hearts.
This is Zhou Min.

Speaking of thesis, she said, there are more fun things than Science and Nature;

Speaking of failure, she said, no big deal, this is not the end of the world;

Speaking of happiness, she said, the sight her daughter’s smile makes her day.



Date: 12/2/2014

By: Jeremy