Dr. Haiying He has had a long journey from her childhood home in north China to her current position of Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Valparaiso University and a key advisor for incoming Chinese students.
Along the way, she had a supportive family that thought learning was important. “My grandfather and parents were well educated and valued education very much.” Science was held in high regard in her society, but Dr. He didn’t focus on it until after high school.
“It wasn’t until I went to college majoring in Material Physics that I truly fell in love with science. It was amazing to see varying behaviors among different types of materials and have a way to understand how things work from these differences,” said Dr. He.
Instructors, from her chemistry teacher who did science magic for middle school students, to a rigorous scholar and advisor for her Masters in Science at Lanzhou University, were sources of inspiration. “Last but not least, my PhD advisor from Michigan Tech is the greatest mentor. He respects students and gives flexibility for them to grow. He also guides and supports students whenever they need it.”
Dr. He pays these blessings forward in her research project and community endeavors. Continuing an ongoing partnership with Argonne National Laboratory that began with postdoctoral research from 2009-2012, she has recently been elected to the Visiting Faculty there. The professor has taken two Valparaiso University Physics & Astronomy students with her for her latest research project at the facility.
Also, Dr. He is a member of the Valparaiso Chinese Christian Association. Describing her work with the organization, she remembered her own problems with language barriers as a Chinese student studying at an American university. “I was so afraid to make a phone call because I was worried that I could not understand other people and people could not understand me. But when I stepped out of my comfort zone and started to talk with my American classmates, my English improved by leaps and bounds.”
Now the professor participates in the organization to serve incoming Chinese students. “I have seen many new and current students struggling with language and cultural differences. I would like to say to them this is common to almost everyone coming from China, but it can be overcome. The most important thing is to face it, take heart and work hard.” She also encourages them to realize there are multiple differences between American and Chinese education systems, and being more active and less passive in class participation is important, along with communicating well with instructors and going to office hours.
In her busy life, Dr. He tries to take time to read. “I appreciate the knowledge and wisdom in books.” Family game time is also a priority, playing card games and badminton with her children. She considers jogging as another hobby, with a current personal record of four miles.
Balance between academic research and her Christian faith has given Dr. He a greater appreciation for science and elements of community service. “I am so thankful God has given us the curiosity and capability to understand the physical laws that he has created. On the other hand, I changed my view of working. I see either teaching or doing research as serving others. My attitude is ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Colossians 3:23).”