Qun “Tring” Zhu (PhD 2001) was featured in the Fall 2020 edition of the Ole Miss Alumni Review. Click Here for the full issue and full article. Zhu earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Zhejiang University of Technology in Hangzhou, China, before she received a graduate research assistantship from Ole Miss and embarked on her journey there. She was going to apply to the National University of Singapore, but her friend Zhuoli He, a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry at Ole Miss, convinced her to apply to Ole Miss. “In the beginning, I struggled with the Southern accent,” Zhu says with a laugh. “I could read and write English, but having conversations was a challenge at the beginning.” Her education included attending symposiums and conferences, such as a trip to a regional American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans. Going to the Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire every summer also gave Zhu insight into the tools needed to present to groups. The process included practice sessions where Zhu appreciated the feedback and training she received from Prof. Charles Hussey. Hussey (BS 71, PhD 74), UM Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry, saw Zhu’s dual skills as a researcher and team leader during her time as a doctoral student. Zhu earned her Ph.D. in electrochemistry and analytical chemistry from Ole Miss in 2001. “She is scientifically very bright and has a strong intuition, which is crucial to success in scientific research,” Hussey says. “She also has a very unique leadership skill in that she can influence team members to pursue a research direction without actually giving them orders. I call this ‘gentle leadership.’ The best leaders have this kind of skill.” “Dr. Hussey has high standards. He says, ‘You are not ready,’ and I practiced more until I was ready. Dr. Hussey taught me so much. He and the chemistry department gave me all the skills that I needed for future challenges.” Obtaining a Ph.D. within the chemistry department also entails presenting a seminar to the entire department. “You have to come up with Ph.D. proposals, you have to prepare and learn how to present in front of a live audience,” Zhu says. “The auditorium was big. I prepared until I was ready!” After she completed her Ph.D., Zhu took an informal role as an Ole Miss recruiter. She recommended a couple of potential graduate students to the chemistry department at the university. “I did the screening,” Zhu says. “I looked at their resumés and made sure they were truly interested in pursuing the Ph.D. degree at Ole Miss.” Hussey notes Zhu could have excelled just as well if she had taken another path. “Qun trained with me at Ole Miss in the area of electrochemistry and went almost immediately into an industry where she went to work on diagnostics product development based on electrochemistry concepts. I think she would have done well in academia too.”
Zhu’s transition from student to scientist began in 2001, when she accepted a job as a senior scientist with Aclara BioSciences Inc., in Mountain View, California. “My first job was doing R&D,” Zhu says. “I was doing electrochemistry. Two years later, I moved to San Diego to work for a company which was later acquired by BD. In 2007, I joined (the) Rapid Diagnostics division (now called the Point of-Care division).” Although Zhu has been working in industry since she left Ole Miss, she is also passionate about teaching and coaching, particularly in program management and leadership. She was a certified instructor at BD for planning and leading projects, and while working for AstraZeneca China, she loved to provide training and coaching to the project managers. Zhu lives in San Diego with her husband, son and daughter. When she is not working, she enjoys running. “I love the outdoors,” she says. “My goal is to run 80 miles every month. I run at least three times a week and try to do that after work outdoors. You can do that year-round here.” Running enables Zhu to ponder ongoing work projects and clear her mind when needed. She realizes the rest of the year will be spent primarily addressing COVID-19. “Everybody is highly motivated, and people are exhausted,” Zhu says. “I work from home, but I really admire and appreciate our scientists because they had to go to the labs and do experiments every day. Without them, we do not have a product.”
Click Here for the full issue and full article.