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China, the big home

Author: 罗伟  Date:2020-10-14     Read:


My name is Peter and my Chinese name is 罗伟. I came from Egypt. In September 2014, I arrived in China for the first time and in September this year 2020, I celebrated my 6th year in China.

In my country, I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2012. I studied agricultural sciences, specifically, animal sciences including poultry and aquaculture sciences. After my bachelor’s graduation, I was eagerly looking forward to an opportunity to continue my study abroad to widen my perception and vision in science and life. However, few are those countries that provide scholarships and fewer are those countries that provide master’s degree scholarships. One day I was walking on the campus in my country and accidentally I met with a colleague who came back to my country after getting his master’s degree from China. He talked to me about how good China is and how suitable the scientific research environment that China can provide. I asked him about the required documents to apply for a scholarship in China and I could within few days collect all the required materials and made myself ready to apply for the scholarship. Fortunately, during that time, another country-mate who was a PhD student at Northwest A&F University (NWAFU), was on vacation in my country. We three met together, and my country-mate who was studying PhD atNWAFU, promised me to take my scholarship application documents to submit them to the College of International Education  at NWAFU. Few months after submission, I received an email announcing the acceptance of a scholarship to study a master’s degree in college of animal science and technology, NWAFU. I knew I was going to meet a new life.

During my first year in China 2014-2015, I started to learnthe Chinese language and I knew more about Chinese culture and customs. The College of International Education has been organizing many cultural activities and trips that could help us to widen our vision and deepen our understating of Chinese ancient history and modern life. During the period from 2015 to 2018, I studied my academic major under the supervisor of Professor Zhang Zhiying (张智英). In Professor Zhang Zhiying’s lab, I learned the basics of molecular genetics and I started to know more about genome editing techniques. Originally, I have been interested in one question that is “How can we improve the productivity and reproductivity of farm animals?” . During my master’s degree, I knew that genome editing provides a novel and unprecedented tool to unconventionally answer this question. In 2018, I graduated and I obtained my master’s degree. It was a fruitful journey.

Before my master’s graduation, I met with another international student at NWAFU, who is a friend of mine. We discussed the available opportunities after master’s graduation. He recommended me to submit my documents and apply for a PhD scholarship at NWAFU. I was lucky enough to get an acceptance to study PhD at NWAFU among a few number of selected students who had already finished their master’s degrees at NWAFU. When I was applying for the PhD scholarship, I was eager to find a lab working on genome editing in farm animals. I was so thrilled by the experiments that Professor Chen Yulin (陈玉林) performs in his lab to introduce economically valuable traits in sheep and goats by using genome editing technologies. I met with Professor Chen Yulin and I discussed with him about my ideas. He accepted me to join his lab. Few months after my master’s graduation, I started my PhD. China gave me another new opportunity and I started a new chapter in my life in China.

After I joined Professor Chen Yulin’s lab, I started to extensively read about the application of genome modification in sheep and goats to increase my understanding of this field and to find a significant research idea to perform during my PhD study. This reading effort could help me, with the support of my teachers, to publish two review articles that tell the story and history of genetic modification in sheep and goats, one of them published in “Frontiers in Genetics” journal and the second published in “Theriogenology” journal. Every year our lab performs a big genome editing experiment in sheep and/or goats under the supervision of Professor Chen Yulin, beside a group of our lab teachers and collaborating teachers. I was lucky, I could join our lab in 2018 during performing this experiment. It was a rich experience and an opportunity to learn a lot of new skills.

At the beginning of this year 2020, we were limited by the invasion of the coronavirus pandemic. Although, my family repeatedly told me to go back home, I insisted on staying in China and they finally agreed to my decision. During the pandemic period, I stayed at school. I utilized that time in reading to find more ideas to prepare my PhD research plan and during that time I also started to write a manuscript of a chapter that is going to be published in the “Springer Book Series”. The school and the CIE took big care of us during the pandemic period and at the end, China could beat the pandemic. After the pandemic and after the school allowed us to start working in the lab under the precautionaryrules, I started to perform experiments in our lab that can be performed after that on the farm this year. Although, I didn’t get all of the experiments’ results that I expected, I learned a lot of lab techniques that will help me to continue performing experiments during my PhD study.

I was lucky once more and at the end of September this year, I joined our lab to perform the genome editing experiment in Ningxia province. Our team instead of enjoying the vacation of the national day and mid-autumn festival, went to Ningxia province to  perform the experiments. Our lab,under the supervision of Professor Chen Yulin,dreams to provide a new improved breedof Chinese Tan sheep (滩羊) using genome editing technology. The ultimate goal of Prof. Chen Yulin’s lab is to improve the production performance of Chinese local sheep and goat breeds to be able to meet with the increasing demand of Chinese society. We started the experiments at the beginning of this month (October). Professor Wang Xiaolong (王小龙), an effective member of our research team who involves in the supervision of genome editing experiments and usually provides big support and aid to us, was in the farm working diligently alongside with us, in addition to a number of teachers each of them works on a specific aspect of the experiment based on their profession to perform it in an optimal way. Working in the field is a good opportunity forteamwork and a good opportunity to discuss with teachers and learndirectly from their experiences.

The teachers in the field, not only provide us with an effective discussion to learn, but also provide big care of us. Among those warm situations, as a result of the limited size of my luggage, I didn’t bring a lot of clothes to the farm.And one day when Professor Ma Baohua (马保华), a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, see me sewing my broken jacket, he kindly helped me with the needlework and at the same timetaught me how to perfectly sew broken clothes. Professor Ma, who is serious in work and friendly in life, teaches us how to perform surgical operationson the animals and how to collect embryos from femaledonor animals and transfer micro-injected embryos to female recipient animals. All of the teachers who work in this experiment provide us with a good environment to learn and improve our experience in the field, those include my supervisor Prof. Chen Yulin, Prof. Wang Xiaolong, Prof. Ma Baohua, Assoc. Prof. Yu Honghao (于鸿浩), and teacher Zhao Xiao’e (赵晓娥). Additionally, after the manager of the farm, Mrs. Kou Qifang (寇启芳), who witnessed Prof. Ma sewing my jacket, kindly decided to give me a new jacket as a gift. She gave me as a present a new jacket and also new pants. I am so grateful to China, to our university, College of International Education, College of Animal Science and Technology, my supervisor Prof. Chen Yulin, our research team teachers, collaborating teachers, and the managerof the farm for their warm care and love. I hope the results of the field experiments this year will be significant and our research team continues to succeed and prosper.

I think to study diligently in China is a suitable and good way to say thank you to China … I will keep trying my best.