As a first generation college student, my pursuit of higher education in environmental science is not as smooth as my interest developed in this area. The sympathy for people suffering in heavily polluted China, the experience in popularization of scientific knowledge, and the enthusiasm for atmospheric research has shaped my path to be an environmentalist and academic researcher.
I was born in XX, a city once reported by TIME Magazine as one of the world's most polluted places. Severe air pollution, mainly due to expanding coal industry, have threatened the residents' health with increasing rate of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. When I was in high school, one of my best friends had to suspend her schooling because of asthma, and the doctor believed it was partly caused by the dirty air. I was truly upset then and decided that I want to do something to mitigate the situation. Therefore, I chose environmental science as my major in college, hoping to help improve the air quality of my hometown one day so that there would be fewer and fewer people suffering from pollution of whatever kind.
My interests in math and chemistry since high school facilitated my study in college. Furthermore, participation in several environmental activities with non-governmental organizations (i.e. NGOs or non-profits) ignited my enthusiasm for environmental issues. These interests continued and were stronger as I graduated from college.
Unfortunately I have gapped three years before I went to graduate school. When I was preparing to advance my education after college, my father had a heart attack. He took a surgery and after one week in the ICU, he came out extremely vulnerable. I was so worried about him that after one night's ponderation, I decided to stay at home taking care of him, instead of going to graduate school. Since my father's not working after surgery, I worked as an accountant in a trading company to help support my family.
I didn't enjoy working with payrolls and taxes, yet there's no environment-related company or institution in a small city like my hometown. But that cannot stop my enthusiasm. I started a public platform on WeChat (a social software like MSN), as a way to popularize environmental knowledge to ordinary people. The platform shared basic knowledge about air and water pollution, recent acts and regulations limiting pollutants' emission, fun facts concerning climate change and biosphere, and practical eco-friendly tips in daily life. I tried my best to make scientific results more easily accepted by nonprofessional people, hoping to promote environmental awareness among the masses.
Originally I assumed the readers would mainly be high school students. However, one day when I visit my grandma, I found my platform was quite popular among housewives in her community. It was that time when I realized, there are more people who are curious about our planet and environmental protection than I thought. What is missing is just a bridge between professional terms and daily language.
Even though the accounting job is well-paid, and I was offered a big promotion by the company, somehow it constantly reminded me that it was not something I enjoyed as a career. I was more fulfilled to receive one comment on my We-chat platform than to accomplish a challenging task at work successfully. Three years later, my father was totally recovered and went back to work. As my family's economic status are much more stable, I immediately quit the job, returned to graduate school to continue my dream of pursuing a career as an environmental scientist.
It was during Master's study that I accomplished the transition from a general environmental enthusiast to a professional researcher. My academic interests in instrumentation and atmospheric science are able to form and blossom through coursework and my own research experience.
I developed an instrument for monitoring ambient pollutants (for details please refer the Statement of Purpose). I still remember the excitement when the first peak appeared on the screen, indicating the device, which I made out of scratch, could successfully detect trace level species. Fascinated by advanced instruments since then, I became familiar with other commercialized equipment for chemical analysis of atmospheric samples, like XX,XX,XX, etc. The more I learned, the more my passion grew, and the accumulating knowledge in turn sparked many new ideas about my own instrumentation process.
More and more often, I find myself working at leisure time, from well-equipped lab to cold, empty containers (while we are on campaigns), testing and improving the instruments. Not because I have to, but because I enjoy the feeling of devoting myself to something I am truly enchanted with. I finally find my career.
Although there are several setbacks along the way, I am proud of the person I have become: a self-motivated female who have worked full time to support her family, and continue, with headlong resolution,to pursue her dream as an environmental scientist. I strongly believe my personality, academic interests and experience will enable me to serve as a contributive part in improving China's environment, through academic achievements and endeavor in popularization of science to ordinary people.