Tsinghua University graduate receives prestigious American fellowship

Zhu Chuanmei, from Yueyang, Hunan, China, has been named a McDonnell International Scholar at Washington University in St. Louis. Zhu earned a degree from Tsinghua University, which is one of 27 premier universities partnered with Washington University in the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

In addition to being selected as an Academy Scholar, she has been named the Charoen Pokphand Corporate Fellow.

The McDonnell Academy provides an opportunity for talented international graduate and professional students to join the Washington University community.

“Zhu Chuanmei brings a strong interest in agriculture and excellent academic qualifications as she begins her time as the Charoen Pokphand Corporate Fellow at Washington University,” says McDonnell International Scholars Academy Director James V. Wertsch, PhD, associate vice chancellor for international affairs and the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.

“Her future promises to be one where she will make important contributions to feeding the world’s population.”

Zhu, who earned a bachelor of science degree in 2008 from Tsinghua University, is pursuing a doctorate in plant biology at Washington University, where she is also an Imaging Sciences Pathway Fellow.

Her interest in plant molecular biology developed in her youth growing up in Yueyang, Hunan, China. She says she was impressed by the ability of plant molecular biologists to develop young, hybrid rice and pest-resistant cotton that greatly improved the lives of farmers, including that of her own family.

At Tsinghua University, Zhu studied the molecular mechanisms underlying plant growth and development. She researched how plants respond to phosphate starvation, an important problem in agriculture.

She received Tsinghua University’s Excellent Undergraduate Research award in 2008 and her work recently was published in the New Phytologist. She also received the university’s First Rank Academic Scholarship.

Zhu’s long-term career plan is to become a leader in the field of plant molecular and cellular biology and to use the knowledge obtained from basic research to address global challenges related to food and energy security.

The McDonnell International Scholars Academy is a program for future global leaders to obtain PhD or master’s degrees. Employing an unusual approach, it brings together top scholars from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America to pursue world-class education and research while forging a strong network with one another.

Key to this are partnerships Washington University has established with top universities and corporations around the world with an eye to increasing opportunities for joint research and global education.

The McDonnell Academy Scholars are expected to be future global leaders. As such, they are provided not only with a rigorous graduate education, but also with cultural and social activities designed to prepare them as leaders knowledgeable about the United States, other countries and critical international issues.

Academy Ambassador

Once selected for this highly competitive program, each Academy Scholar is matched with a distinguished member of the Washington University faculty who serves as a mentor and also as an Academy “Ambassador” to the university partner from which the Scholar has graduated.

The Academy Ambassador assists the McDonnell Scholar in academic and professional life and travels annually with the Scholar to the partner university to build relationships between the two institutions.

Frank C.P. Yin, MD, PhD, the Stephen F. and Camilla Brauer Professor of Biomedical Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, is Zhu’s faculty mentor-ambassador.

Yin was born in Kunming, China, came to the U.S. as a child, and subsequently earned a bachelor of science and a master of science in aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He then went to the University of California, San Diego, where he earned a doctor of medicine and a doctorate in bioengineering. Yin was a clinical associate at the National Institutes of Health and then joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine before joining the Washington University faculty in 1997.

His research focuses on biomechanics, cell mechanics and cardiovascular physiology. He has published widely on these and related topics.

Yin has held several positions in professional organizations, including chair of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, board member of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, national advisory council member of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging Bioengineering, and president of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

The McDonnell Academy

The McDonnell Academy Scholars receive funding for full tuition and living expenses for the time it takes to get a degree at Washington University. The Academy also provides support for an annual trip back to the Scholar’s alma mater. Many of the Scholars reside in two fully equipped and furnished apartment buildings near campus.

Funding is provided through a sustaining endowment gift from John F. McDonnell, vice chair of WUSTL’s Board of Trustees and retired chairman of the board of McDonnell Douglas Corp.

Additional support comes from 22 multinational corporations, foundations and individual sponsors. Sponsoring corporations also offer internships and on-site educational opportunities for the Academy’s Corporate Fellows.