University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) held its Graduation and Degree Awarding Ceremony of 2021 on July 3. OZIOMA UDOCHUKWU AKAKURU, a Nigerian PhD student of UCAS(Institute: Ningbo Institute of Material Technology and Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences), also finished his adventure in UCAS. This article is his experience and feeling living and studying in China.
A beautiful, serene place to live and work with high-tech facilities and hospitable individuals that make dreams to come true.
I was working as a lecturer in a public University in my country Nigeria and observed that most publications in renowned journals that I found useful originated from China and by Chinese scholars. I began to ponder how marvelous it will be to join the team of researchers in China to explore the beaming advanced science and technology, thanks to Professor WU Aiguo who offered a seat to me in his lab, hence my journey in this beautiful country that I and my family love dearly began.
The news about the joint scholarship by the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and The World Academy of Science (CAS-TWAS) awarded to me in 2017 was received with mixed feelings of joy and anxiety with regards to how I could cope, given the cultural differences and technical advancements in China. However, my fears were allayed by the regular five-months intensive study organized by the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) in Beijing on Chinese language and culture for all newly admitted international students in conjunction with the various professional courses tailored toward individual students’ PhD research. These adequately equipped me to maneuver my PhD program in UCAS and comfortably integrate into the Chinese society. It was an amazing experience in Beijing, China. I had the opportunity to visit various monumental sites in Beijing such as the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and the beautiful lake in Yanqihu on a snowy winter, while interacting with Chinese locals on each occasion, thus giving me first-hand experience and knowledge of the Chinese rich history and culture. Not just that, I had a taste of and appreciated different Chinese cuisines including the popular Beijing Kao Ya.
Top: Ozioma doing an experiment in a lab at NIMTE. Left: Ozioma and colleagues during an animal experiment. Right: Ozioma discussing science with his lab group members.
I headed to my research institute in Ningbo, China at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering (NIMTE), after my five-month stay in Beijing to commence the laboratory research aspect of my PhD program, and I wondered if life in Ningbo and the research stay therein, will be similar to the wonderful experience in Beijing. Upon arrival in Ningbo in January 2018, I realized the uniform civilization of the Chinese society in entirety. Another spectacular aspect of the China development strategy which I observed in Ningbo and other Chinese cities that I visited thereafter is that visiting a particular city after two years will leave one in wonder about the level of development that would have sprung up in such short time. One could then understand that science and technology are pivotal to the developments as evident in schools, streets, and even homes in China. The warm welcome at NIMTE significantly boosted my morale to work hard and achieve my goal of becoming a good hand in the research field. The experienced international student’s liaison office staff at NIMTE made my settling into the institute stress-free and have greatly contributed to make my stay at NIMTE worthwhile through their organization of various intellectual training platforms for international students and efficacious student support system.
Generally, NIMTE is adequately equipped for numerous materials and engineering-based research and as such one of the best places in China to conduct fascinating research. Laden with cutting-edge testing facilities for materials synthesis, characterization and application, conducting my PhD research at NIMTE was a memorable experience as almost all that were needed for my research ranging from simple reagents to the complex aspects such as testing kits, software, biological cells, and animal models were readily available. Impressively also, discovering that most of the items we used for our day-to-day research were made in China sounds a very strong drum of self-sustainable development that China is now known for worldwide.
Aided by the expert guidance of my supervisor Professor Aiguo Wu and unprecedented team spirit of the members of our research team with diverse specialties and background, I was able to make meaningful contributions in cancer imaging and therapy. Specifically, I developed metal-free organic-based agents that possess capability for simultaneous cancer imaging and therapy, and exhibited impressive performances in pre-clinical evaluations. In furtherance of standard scientific communication practice, the ideas from my PhD research alongside the corresponding outcomes of the pre-clinical investigations of the materials that I developed have been published in various top international journals in nanotechnology and materials science. Interestingly, these wonderful contributions to science and knowledge have garnered me numerous awards of excellence by various entities including our research group, a Chinese industry, NIMTE, and UCAS. I was also opportune to attend and join in the organization of some international conferences hosted by our research group at NIMTE. These events provided the right avenues for me to interact with renowned international experts in biomedicine and materials science from around the globe and learn from the research they presented to broaden my knowledge, with particular emphasis on cancer research. It was also fun in our group during the summer outings within Ningbo and in neighboring cities, complemented with other social activities at NIMTE including sporting, music, and painting, which provide the highly sought-after balance for work and life.
Left: Ozioma at the Great Wall of China. Right: Ozioma in an international conference at NIMTE.
Nevertheless, outside the work in the lab, my family and I enjoyed the homey community of staff and students with their families at NIMTE. With such fantastic neighbors that were always willing to assist us, other students from various nationalities, and Chinese friends, the stay at NIMTE became even more interesting. Indeed, I will continue to strongly recommend China, UCAS, and NIMTE to any international graduate student that wishes to practice good science and also have a happy life.