Celebrating the graduates of Fall 2021: Hongbing Fan

Meet new graduate Hongbing Fan and hear about his journey in ALES.
By Katie Willis

This year, the University of Alberta is celebrating the graduating class of Fall 2021 with a virtual convocation ceremony on November 19. As we acknowledge the achievements of our graduating class, we’re sharing just a few of the amazing stories of our graduates.

Meet Hongbing Fan, a member of the class of Fall 2021 who is graduating with a PhD in food science from the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. Hear from Hongbing on being recognized with awards and the value of building a network.

Congratulations, Hongbing!

What led you to choose the U of A for your studies?

An English-speaking country like Canada was my top priority when I was selecting the university for my PhD studies. The U of A ranks one of the top universities in the field of food science and technology in Canada. More importantly, my friends who had joined the Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science (AFNS) at the U of A as visiting students strongly recommended me to participate in the food science program here. At that time, my major research interests included functional foods and protein chemistry while my supervisor Professor Jianping Wu is one of the top scientists in these fields around the world. Together, this made U of A an ideal university for my PhD studies.

Tell us about your experience in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.

ALES and AFNS provide a diverse, respectful, inclusive, and supportive educational environment to students. Over the past years, I had opportunities to teach students in the classrooms and mentor both summer and graduate students in the laboratories. I also had the chance to be involved in various student activities by volunteering as the chair for the AFNS graduate students’ association (GSA) and as the student representative in several committees including the university GSA and AFNS department council meetings.

My supervisor, Professor Jianping Wu, has always been supportive of my career development. With his advice, I was able to join a couple of division and regional leadership teams in several food science organizations including Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS). I have worked with other professors to chair/co-chair a few technical/poster sessions at international conferences, serve as the judge for award selection and student presentation competition, as well as organize many other academic and social activities. These experiences added a big value to my career, since I got many opportunities to network with other professionals across the globe. With these, I received a couple of service, research and communication awards from these organizations and at their annual conferences.

My studies and research have been going well although many challenges were present. I was lucky to receive a number of academic and research awards from the faculty and university  including Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, Alberta Innovates Doctoral Scholarship and Andrew Steward Memorial Graduate Prize. In my laboratory, I was involved in various research projects, which made me publish quite a few research papers. This also enhanced my communication skills and abilities to collaborate with others which I believe will advance my future career as an independent researcher. Overall, I had a very busy program and I had many wonderful moments during my studies in AFNS and ALES.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?

It was in 2018 when I was working in my office. My girlfriend signed me up for the Edmonton Chinese Singing Contest as she wanted to surprise me. I ended up getting the first prize in the international group during the contest. At the U of A, I got invited by the China Scholar Recipient Association to perform at the 2018 and 2019 Chinese New Year Gala. Although I used to perform when I was studying in China, it was quite interesting and enjoyable to sing Chinese songs in Canada.

What advice do you have for current and prospective students?

Work hard and play harder. Work independently but always collaborate with others.

For new graduate students, I encourage you to stay connected with your supervisors and senior students — especially those who are role models. With their help you can set achievable goals for your studies. Be very clear about what you need to accomplish at every stage, especially for PhD students as you may get lost sometimes during the long journey of your program. Also, always try to attend more social activities, not limited to on campus, despite your busy schedules, as this will make you be immersed in Canadian culture, practice your English, and make more friends.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?

I am planning to take time off and visit my family. It has been more than two years since the last time I went back home due to the pandemic.

What’s next for you after graduation?

I will stay in the same laboratory for a few months to wrap up all my projects before moving to the next position as a postdoctoral fellow in another university in Canada or the USA.