Ping and I met as undergraduate classmates at Peking University in Beijing, China. After that, we attended graduate school for our master degrees, still in the same university. Although our departments were different, we were conducting experiments in the same building.
Just before graduation in Beijing, we decided to pursue our Ph.D. degrees. We were very lucky that both of us were admitted by U.S. universities. However, I was admitted to UT Austin, and Ping was chosen by Purdue University in West Lafayette. Before we came to the USA, we got married. Chinese culture does not include changing last names after marriage, but we happen to have the same last name anyway.
Great education: good life in Austin
In the summer of 2011, Ping formally became a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Hugh Smyth who was also my supervisor. We were again classmates and lab mates; therefore, we were truly a “24-7” couple. We studied in the same group, sharing the common language in science that we used to discuss difficulties in our research. We stayed in the same lab for our Ph.D study till graduation. Our pharmaceutics studies were enhanced by what we learned from Dr. Jim McGinity and Dr. Bill Williams as well as Dr. Smyth.
From Dr. Carl Erickson, we learned the value of speaking precisely and with humor. We learned that science should be understood, not by just a small group of scientists, but by the public as well.
Our graduate coordinator, Stephanie Crouch invites international students to her house for Thanksgiving. Ping and I got the chance to celebrate our first American Thanksgiving in her house, our first time to experience real American culture.
We were also invited to the home of Betty Charles and Mirl Kimberling, a local couple who hosted us for our first American Christmas. The Christmas lights hung on the house or wrapped around the trees were impressed deeply in our mind. Even though we were far away from home, the celebration with warm, kind American people made us feel much better. We also want Americans to get the warm welcome from China. Our friend Dennis Rigstad with whom I practiced my English visited Beijing in 2011. My friends in Beijing gave him a Hutong tour to learn the local culture of Beijing.
Moving from Austin to Research Triangle
Pursuing a Ph.D degree was our dream. We tried our best and finally get to this point with both earning their doctorate degrees in 2015.
Many professors from UT have connections or experiences with or in the pharmaceutical industry. From these professors we learned the expectations of our potential employers, which prepared us for the competition with graduate students from other top programs. We deeply appreciate Dr. Smyth for his support of our research, career path, and life. When we were wondering where to go after graduation, he gave us lots of advice for our future career paths. When we were in need of support during job hunting, he never hesitated to provide us good recommendations concerning our potential employers.
Currently, we are both working in Catalent in the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Yes, we are working together again; however, we are in different buildings and different departments this time. I still work on pulmonary product development with projects in my department mainly conducted in cGMP environments. Every document generated from my department has to be sent to our regulation department for review before its final closure. Ping’s department focuses on preformulation and early development of small molecules. Ping enjoys this is a new research area for her. Meanwhile, most of her coworkers came from GSK and have decades of experiences. Ping believes this is a great platform and is important for her continued success.
Thanks to this great University
We are grateful to have this wonderful opportunity of studying together in UT. The education from UT provided us valuable knowledge, unforgettable experiences, and the confidence to speak in front of public.