At the University of Sheffield, you have the opportunity to take a new step forward in life. Be courageous and be independent with your thoughts.
Please describe a typical day
A typical day may involve working in the office where I have to get through paperwork, do some literature reviews and maybe attend some meetings. I have to check my labs and also talk to my students (master, PhD, postdocs and visiting fellows) about their projects. I may also talk to industry partners and colleagues about possible collaborations and other opportunities.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your current role or your greatest career achievement so far?
I am honored to have received the highest provincial fellowship, the "100 Talent Program," from Hubei Province, China, as well as the "Chutian Scholar" award from Hubei Province and the "Minjiang Scholar" award from Fujian Province. My unique "K-insertion and unzipping" technique allows me to create a variety of non-layered 2D crystal surface materials with a single-cell thickness, making me one of the few people in the world capable of doing so.
Currently, I am working on several grants, including Chinese national funding and industrial funding, to develop electrocatalytic processes. Over the past few years, I have published about 60 papers in journals such as Matter, Advanced Energy Materials, Nano Energy, and ACS Nano. One of my most significant recent achievements was the development of pure carbon cloth materials for the electrochemical production of hydrogen peroxide. I am currently collaborating with two industrial partners to further develop this technique for on-site industrial production.
Are there any challenging aspects?
There are challenges every day - I am always learning new techniques and designing more innovative devices and technologies.
Thinking back to your degree, how do you think it prepared you for your current role - what skills did you learn that you put into practice?
My supervisors and tutors in the department taught me some very important skills and ways of thinking:
1) I always think of myself in a "black box" - everything is unclear and needs creative ways to discover solutions
2) Face challenges and take courage to overcome them
3) Try to understand something in depth rather than looking at it simply
How have these skills or your course made a difference in your career?
I have faced some challenges in my previous career but the skills I learned during my PhD have made me into an independent scientist who is able to tackle these challenges head on!
What were the best things about studying in the department?
In 2010, I joined Prof. Shaowei Zhang's research group. However, he moved to the University of Exeter in 2011, and I joined Prof. Dan Allwood's group, where I focused on developing innovative 2D materials.
During my time at Sheffield, I attended a class held by Prof. Mark Rainforth in the department. Although my English was not good at the time, I remember him talking about the University motto "Rerum Cognoscere Causas," which translates to "To understand the causes of things." These words have since become an integral part of my life.
At the beginning of my PhD, I struggled to develop my research interests because they differed from the research focuses of my supervisors. However, my PhD study at Sheffield taught me to work independently and think critically, which have been invaluable in my professional growth.
My first PhD supervisor, Prof. Dan Allwood, had a background in materials science and materials physics. He seemed to know everything about my project and proposals, which motivated me to work hard and learn more about materials science and materials physics. He taught me a lot about writing manuscripts and grant proposals. Whenever I faced difficulties or challenges, he always encouraged me to ask, "why not?" I often sought his guidance in many aspects of my career development.
I enjoyed living in Sheffield because it was a safe place with friendly locals. During my time there, I started a family and had my first child. I also appreciated the excellent NHS services. Looking back, my time in Sheffield passed by too quickly, but the memories and experiences I gained during my PhD studies will always stay with me.
If you could give advice to current students who are starting to think about their future career, what would you tell them?
At the University of Sheffield, you have the opportunity to take a new step forward in life. Be courageous and be independent with your thoughts when facing challenges.
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