My experience in a chemistry lab was a reason my PhD supervisor took me on

Zhiheng Song
Zhiheng Song
PhD student, Drexel University, Philadelphia
Chemistry BSc
Zhiheng has followed his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Sheffield with a PhD in the USA.

What did you enjoy most about your undergraduate degree? 

The abundant lab experience and lovely living conditions were the most enjoyable things about my undergraduate degree. At the University of Sheffield, we had various lab classes that helped me with the understanding of different fields of chemistry concepts, and also allowed me to learn about effective laboratory practice. The city of Sheffield also has a lot of attractions, many of which are easily accessible by foot or by public transport. 

What was it like being an international student at Sheffield? 

As an international student, life in Sheffield was comfortable. The large student population in Sheffield, around 50,000, means that there are many spots within walking distance from students. Regarding the international student community, it was well integrated into the community of home students, but there were also many places where international students could buy products from their country of origin to help them feel at home.

 What are you doing now and how did you decide to go down that route?

I am currently pursuing a PhD degree in mechanical engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. After years of being taught by talented professors at University of Sheffield, I realised that science is the area that I want to stay in. I find it fascinating to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life, which meant that engineering seemed like a good option for me. One factor that influenced my decision to study in the United States was a desire to experience a different education system. 

How did your undergraduate degree help you secure your PhD? 

My undergraduate degree was BSc Chemistry and now I am performing research on plasma. During my undergraduate degree, I learnt spectroscopy, which has helped me to characterise many of the materials I have synthesised. Furthermore, my experience of working in a chemistry lab was one of the reasons my PhD supervisor was keen to take me on as a student. 

What skills from your undergraduate degree are you using now in your PhD?

I would say all the skills I learnt at my undergraduate are being used in my PhD. These skills include laboratory safety, laboratory skills, critical thinking and so on. The most valuable thing is that I learnt how to think about issues from a scientific perspective.

Have you got any words of wisdom for other international students applying to Sheffield? 

Studying abroad can be challenging. Learn to respect people from different backgrounds and cultures, invest time into your studies, and make sure to look after yourself. 

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