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Chinese exchange student discusses lessons learned while at Northeastern University

Rui Hu is an exchange student from Peking University in Beijing who has spent six months in Professor Meni Wanunu‘s lab at Northeastern University. Here she talks about her experiences as a graduate student researcher, working in Professor Wanunu’s lab, and living in Boston.

What made you select Northeastern and Dr. Meni Wanunu’s lab as your research destination for your exchange program?

I applied to the short term exchange program from Peking University, which aimed at promoting the international cooperation between different labs all over the world. The reason I chose Northeastern University is because it has good facilities and a beautiful campus. The university also provides a free environment for researchers, which is attractive to me. The reason I chose Meni’s lab is because Meni is among the top scientists in solid state nanopore field. Meni and his lab have published a lot of good quality papers which have helped me a lot when I started in this field. Last year, Meni visited my lab in Peking University and I gave a presentation to him. He gave me some really good comments. His rich knowledge about solid state nanopore and his creativity impress me a lot.

What was your favorite part about working in Meni’s lab and Northeastern?
I really enjoyed the days I spent in Meni’s lab and Northeastern. It’s hard for me to pick the most favorite part because there were so many wonderful times I appreciate. I like the moments when Meni and other colleagues help me when I had troubles in experiments. They gave me a lot of suggestions and extended my knowledge about nanopore. I like the group meeting we had every two weeks. After the delicious bagel breakfast together, we started to present the results we got in the previous two weeks. It’s really a good chance share and communicate with Meni and other colleagues. They make comments and ask questions about my experiment which helped me keeping the whole experiment on the right way!

What did you think of living and working in Boston for six months?

I love living and working in Boston. Boston is an wonderful city. It’s not too big and is very convenient to live. Actually it’s the first time that I went abroad and lived all by myself. At the beginning, I was struggling to buy food and cook by myself. After a few weeks, I’ve learned where I can buy fresh and cheap vegetables and fruit. There are so many supermarkets and convenient stores that sell an eyeful of goodies. I go out with my colleagues for lunch and shopping on weekends. There are so many fantastic restaurants from all over the world. I’ve tried Mexican food, Thai food, and Israeli food which I’ve never tried before. Besides, Boston is a very beautiful city with clean air and blue sky. I like running around the Charles River after work, enjoying watching the sunset and sailboats skimming the water. Boston is also famous for its education. There are so many worldwide famous universities and the best researchers in all field, which gives us a lot of opportunities to cooperate and communicate with each other. I really love the times I was staying Boston.

What are the next steps for you as a graduate student?

I’m a PhD candidate at Peking University and have two more years to graduate. After I come back to my lab, I’m going to update the experiment methods and some instruments in the lab with the new methods I’ve learned in Meni’s lab to improve efficiency. I’m still going to do the research about solid state nanopore and maybe to have cooperation with Meni’s lab. And what’s more, I’m willing to apply for a new exchange program to come here again during my graduate period.

How do you think your time here has shaped your research interests in the area of biological physics?

The experience here makes me feel that it is really amazing doing biological physics research. For these six months, I was detecting protein and tRNA using solid state nanopores. I’m so excited when I see the minor conformational change can be distinguished by our results. Besides, I’ve learned how to fabricate ultra thin SiN membrane chips to get a better resolution and how to analyze experiment data in a scientific way. These experiences equip me with good knowledge in research. The six months I think not only cultivated my interest in biology physics, but also teach me the right way to do research. I think the most instructive thing I learned here is to be curious about nature, come up with innovative idea, design precise experiment routines to certify the idea. And the road to good results is always hardworking.

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