The Making of a Scientist

Having recently completed the Phage Research Program at the world-class Johns Hopkins University, SAF alumnus Yangchen Zheng talks about his experience.

Why did you apply to this program at Johns Hopkins University?

I was dedicated to animal viruses research in my home university. Phage Hunter Project offered me a great opportunity to expand my research area and learn more about virology. Also, Johns Hopkins University is a world class university that attracts many many biology students and researchers. This program was a good way for me to know more about Johns Hopkins, its culture and its graduate programs. Thirdly, I hoped to study abroad and experience foreign culture, so it can inspire me and help to see the world better.

What is the most memorable moment of your study abroad experience?

There are many memorable moments. I can still remember the time when we (my two Korean friends and I) cooked food in the department. I can also remember every time we discussed with the professor what happened on our plates. I also enjoyed spending time traveling around the United States.

How does this experience contribute to your goals for the future?

The complicated and manifold experimental procedures helped cultivate my professional qualities, such as patience, prudence and precision. Also, this program further enhanced my interest in biology and made me more and more certain that I want to conduct scientific research and pursue a scientific career.

What would you say this program helped you learn about yourself?

I have a feeling that I changed a lot after my study abroad, though I don’t know what exactly caused that. I have become more confident, patient and independent. I’m glad that I could study at Johns Hopkins for two months and collaborate with people from different countries. Prof. Schildbach taught me lots of things—not only professional knowledge but also ways of dealing with things. I appreciate every help, every smile and every greeting I received from the people around and I really want to say “thank you” to every one of them. Though I don’t know the exact reason, I believe that I have become more self-confident and mature than before.

Would you encourage other students to apply for this program?

I would like to encourage other students to take part in the program. Firstly, students can gain much knowledge about bacteriophage and phage biology. Also, the program will further enhance interest in biology, because students can isolate their own phages and do their own experiments to characterize its physical and chemical properties. Thirdly, study abroad provides students an opportunity to understand their culture from different perspectives, as well as accept different perspectives from different cultures.

Who or what inspired your interest in science? ​

My father led me to the scientific world. As I was a child, he always told me something about his research, about the railway, the electrical system, etc. And he would relate my coursework to deeper knowledge. For instance, when I learned Newton’s Law in physics class, he taught me something about calculus. What’s more, my father let me solve problems on my own to help me think independently. All the above inspired me and motivated me to be a scientist.


~ From Yangchen Zheng, an SAF Student Correspondent