Female Scientists Share Views, Inspire Their Peers to Pursue Academic Success

July 7, 2019
Editor: Wei Xuanyi
A photo of the Women in Science forum.[Douban]


"I am reluctant to answer the question — 'how to balance career and family,' as I don't think it is an exclusive dilemma to women but a common one to both sexes," said Yan Nieng, a professor at Princeton University, who is also an elected foreign associate to the US National Academy of Sciences, at a forum in Beijing on June 21.

Yan said such topics however could be raised on the present occasion. The forum was initiated by Yan in 2015 and it was organized by the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Structural Biology of Tsinghua University this year. It aims to encourage female scientists to pursue academic success.

Yan Nieng, a professor at Princeton University [Douban]


A total of six outstanding female senior, middle-aged and young scientists shared the stories of their academic careers at the event.

Yu Xiang, a professor at Peking University, said many female postgraduate students thought of giving up whenever they encountered difficulties in their third and fourth year at school.

She encouraged them to stick to their original aspiration and reconfirm their research ambitions after hesitation.

Yu Xiang, a professor at Peking University [Douban]


As the youngest speaker among the six scientists, Chen Xie, a physicist specializing in condensed matter, said she had met few obstacles in her career and attributed her persistence in research to her family and teachers' support and encouragement.

Chen Xie, a physicist specializing in condensed matter [Douban]


Huang Chaolan, Director of the Center for Precision Medicine Multi-Omics Research at Peking University's Health Science Center, held that women should break the shackles of stereotypes of women's roles in the family at different ages.

Huang Chaolan, Director of the Center for Precision Medicine Multi-Omics Research at Peking University's Health Science Center [Douban]


Wang Zhizhen and Zhu Jing, two academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in their 70s, are senior researchers of the older generation. They said the facilities and services offered for research were excellent, calling on younger fellows at the forum to cherish the good opportunities of receiving good education and doing research.

All of them agreed that age was not a key factor affecting researchers' academic success.

"Don't be over-anxious about time. Anxiety is more horrible to some extent than wasting time," Chen said.

Yan refuted the argument on the negative influence of age on research by offering examples: biophysicist Shi Yigong, President of Westlake University, made his most influential scientific achievement after his 40s, and Nobel laureate Brian Kobilka started his award-winning program in his 50s.

"My memory gets worse after I turned 40," Yan said honestly, adding that on the other hand, people's ability in other fields would greatly improve with the growth of age and experience, which were advantages.

"As far as biological research is concerned, I do not agree with the so-called golden age of scientific research. There are many factors affecting the state of scientific research, and age itself is not necessarily important," Yan added.

Wang said she could not accept the sayings about age, as did Zhu.

Wang Zhizhen, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences [Douban]


"From 40 to 60 is actually a very good age range for scientific research," Zhu said, pointing out that people in this age range might have broader vision and more practical experience and reserves of theory-based thinking

Yan also disproved a common view that trying to do research was a form of wasting time when you were not very sure if you really wanted to be a researcher or fit for doing researches.

Huang echoed Yan' s point of view by sharing her own story.

After four years' work as a teacher in a middle school, Huang furthered her study and found her true love — scientific research. She said more attempts could help people find the right career direction.

Zhu Jing, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences [Douban]


(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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