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In the Focus

2017 Graduate Stories: Xiao Jiashun - “Choose something you like and work hard”

Jun 13, 2017 Latest

What kind of graduates can be called "excellent"?

Is it the ones who get top grades in their subjects?

Is it the ones who reach an important position in student organizations and societies?

Is it the ones who research in the laboratory or task group, working on cutting-edge tech?

Or maybe is it the ones who find a great job and get well paid?

...

Perhaps, doing just one of them can already be called excellent.

Xiao Jiashun, a 2017 Department of Biology graduate, is a character who is always cheerful and easygoing. We sat down with him to talk about his life at SUSTech and his situation since graduation.

"I feel fulfilled!"

His GPA score was the top in the biological information class; he was involved in the creation and management of the TCA science and technology cooperatives, and led the SUSTech team to go abroad to participate in the iGEM contest; with his Department of Biology tutor Huang Wei, he was a member of the research group for two years; and now, he is currently working in the country's largest sequencing platform WEGENE, and serves as biological information analyst, where he is responsible for analyzing the phenotype of the sequenced sample to analyze the value hidden in the gene.

"I feel fulfilled!" These 3 simple words summarize his feelings.

On the path of knowledge: a gradual approach to bioinformatics

Xiao Jiashun began to be interested in biology in high school. At that time, he did not know much about academic literature, he only had access to his high school biology teacher and some domestic magazines and articles; the teacher's lectures were very interesting, every year they would discuss the latest discoveries and topics of the Nobel Prize, and this made Xiao Jiashun very interested in biology. "I was really lucky to have a great high school teacher." he says.

Once arrived at SUSTech, Xiao faced a relatively pleasant "problem": he did not know whether to choose biology or mathematics for his major. He is also good in mathematics, in the freshman and sophomore years both subjects are studied and can get the students a lot of points, but finally Xiao chose the biology department and only mathematics related to his bioinformatics field.

Xiao's life tutor associate professor He Jiakui and academic tutor Professor Huang Wei provided him with valuable help in academic subjects but also general life matters. Both mentors are highly knowledgeable in bioinformatics, which is Xiao Jiashun main area of interest. The relationship between the teachers and Xiao was very positive, often talking about topics until one or two o'clock in the morning. His mentors really passed on their love of scientific research and the curiosity of the unknown. He eventually entered Huang Wei's task group under the guidance of his fellow students and began working in the field of bioinformatics as part of the group's own research.

Xiao ranked first in the bioinformatics GPA, thanks to his ability to write procedures and analyze sequences. Bioinformatics is a relatively new field, and SUSTech's curriculum construction was set up quite late. Therefore a lot of the work and study had to be arranged by himself, unlike other colleges and universities where ready-made software and courses are immediately available. In Huang Wei's group, he was the only bioinformatics student, however this also allowed him to deal with lots of bioinformatics-related data. These opportunities provided him with valuable experience and an independent spirit.

On the road of SUSTech: mutual support and constant improvement

In his first 2 years Xiao studied a lot of maths and biology courses, and as a results became very busy. "In addition to the classes we have a lot of homework to write, and the busiest time is the sophomore year, every day from Monday to Friday we had classes from morning to night." he recalls. Even so, Xiao found time to join the TCA science and technology cooperatives and SUSTech's public welfare, as well as participating in the iGEM contest.

In the TCA he became responsible for the biology group, and it is with much nostalgia that he talks about this period: "At that time we really built a community, we were full of enthusiasm, passionate about scientific research." In the TCA, the academic atmosphere is very strong, every week there is a report, and each person should take turns to contribute. Reading literature becomes a habit, as is visiting top companies to gain more insight on how they work and what is expected of the students. Xiao himself took the group on 2 visits to bio-industry companies.

Xiao said he was very honored to be able to participate in the iGEM team, and that thanks to the other members of the team they all learned a lot and felt very grateful for this opportunity. He said the iGEM team's spirit is strong, they are pushed to face challenges and solve problems, even sometimes related to working in a team. Xiao says this helped him a lot to develop leadership skills. He concedes however that there was also a period of time when he was very negative, he even wasn't managing the team's affairs. He said it was a very dark time for him, but fortunately his teammates supported him through it and together they overcame. Through this kind of experience also Xiao says he grew a lot.

The graduate underlines the transformation that he has been through during the four years. When he first arrived, it would take him around 6 months to obtain the results he needed, a process which he says now would take about 3 days. Speaking of the reasons for this huge progress, he says that for experiments researchers cannot rely on their own ideas and vision, the first step should be to think of the research already done and see what others concluded in this area - in particular, look at other people's specific practices and studies. "Don't assume you are always right, if you don't pay attention to the details, you will most likely not succeed" he said on a serious tone.

Finally, Xiao wanted to address personally the younger students at the university. He said they should be rigorous in their scientific research, and make as few mistakes as possible, don't make the same mistakes more than once; and before doing the experiment, carefully plan the framework, understand every step. If one is not rigorous, the consequences are serious, and they will be spending a lot of time and energy but will not achieve any results. "Even if the protocol is very detailed, you might feel it's very simple, and not seriously look at the details." He said, "my instructor once told me that the ideal situation takes time. If time is 'a', the final timeframe of your work should be 2a + b, where b> 7a”.

Contributed by: Wu Zhixing

Photos by: Zeng Haixiang

Edited by: Jeremy Welburn

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