[People of UIC] Zhou Yifan: Heading to UCL full-scholarship PhD

Zhou Yifan is a UIC student of the class of 2021 from the Food Science and Technology Programme. She is now studying for her PhD at the Faculty of Life Sciences of University College London.


Zhou developed a research interest in food and disease during her undergraduate study. Guided and encouraged by the Head of UIC's Department of Life Sciences, Prof Xu Baojun, she began to conduct review studies on the functional foods such as matsutake and saponins on inflammation, cancer, obesity and diabetes, and accumulated a great deal of knowledge about phytochemistry, biotechnology, and the mechanisms and treatments of chronic diseases. Her thesis, New insights into molecular mechanisms of "Cold or Hot" nature of food: When East meets West, was published in the internationally renowned journal Food Research International. In the second semester of her final year, she completed another review paper on the signalling pathways of dietary saponins in anti-cancer molecules, and it was published in the international authoritative journal,Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.


Zhou said teachers at UIC were quite supportive by providing instructive opinions to students on future planning. The four-year study at UIC equipped her with solid English and scientific research skills, eliminating hurdles in academic writing and laboratory operation, and adapting her quickly to her research studies abroad.

After graduating from UIC, she went to the National University of Singapore (NUS) for her master's degree. By participating in a clinical trial project between NUS and Nestle, she summarised the clinical trial results, completed two exploratory articles and eventually graduated with a GPA of 4.85 out of 5 and all A's in all her courses. In addition, she published a review paper in a leading food journal in her spare time.


Facing the options of her PhD studies, she decided to switch to the direction of Life Sciences and take a gap year to work as a research assistant in the School of Life Sciences at Xiamen University to gain research experience. Finally, she managed to get admitted to UIC's Faculty of Life Sciences with a full scholarship.

According to Zhou, the academic articles she published during her undergraduate studies, her clinical experience during her master's degree, her research experience, and her high GPA are all critical reasons that helped her dream of UCL.

Although the road to her PhD is still full of challenges, she will continue to reap more sweet fruits from her passion for research.


Reporter: Cecilia Yu

Photos provided by the interviewee

Editor: Deen He