Sunday, February 11, 2018



《读唐诗》“床前的月光,窗外的雪。 高飞的白鹭,浮水的鹅。
床前的月光,窗外的雪。 高飞的白鹭,浮水的鹅。 

相思的红豆, 吴山的雪。 边塞的战士,回乡的客。
唐诗里有乐,唐诗里有苦。唐诗像祖先在向我诉说。”    这个节目唱出来第一句眼泪就流出来,从头哭到尾。

窗含西岭千秋雪,Palmer Commons, Ann Arbor外景, Feb 08,2018

Friday, December 29, 2017

Choosing the graduate school

Recently, I interviewed a student. He gave me a clear answer, 'if MIT gives me Offer, then I will go to MIT. Otherwise, I will come to Umich'.  I recalled when I had interview many years ago, I  said something similar, 'if Harvard gives me an offer, I would go to Harvard. If not, I would go to Princeton'. Look backing today, how ignorant I was!

The choices made by 20-year-olds are often blind. They do not know what exactly they want. If it is just for a Ph.D title from a famous school, then five years of life is too long.

I think most of the students who choose to do a PhD have some kind of dreams, or illusions, about science and technology, at least when they begin. Then the most important thing is to find a mentor that share the same dream with you. When you get into graduate school, you will soon find out, many people are here, not because they love science or love to profess, but because they love the title of professor. Or it is because they are in a major where there is no job market, and after doing many years of postdoctoral, they lost the opportunity to change to another major.  Some of the professors, they hate research. In my discipline, bioinformatics, it is reflected by that they don't want to touch a single line of code; and when talking about programming, a look of contempt appears on their face and it looks as if they want to stay away it as far as possible. The day they become independent, is the same day their scientific life ends, because they would never do or even care about any experiment any more. Of course, they would still claim that 'I am interested in the XXX problem'; however, this "interested in" is nothing more than saying 'without this research topic, I would have to go on the street'. They care about papers and funding, but only because these are a way to make a living.  They can be very successful in other people's eyes. But, living such a life is pathetic. And when you find out that the professors you have long admired are no more than just struggling for a living, pursuing for some ridiculous 'reputation' or 'recognition', your value system will ​​collapse.

I think a happy life is that one can do what s/he loves to do everyday, while getting paid.   Ever since my Ph.D., I have seen numerous unfairness, lies and manipulations.  In a short summary, it is like Lu Xun said, humanity is depicted as the true, the good and the beautiful, but between the lines, there is only one word --- 'cannibalism’. The only thing that supported me to go this far is that I have an irreplaceable interests in studying various kinds of data. Even if I am doing other jobs now, I would spend all my spare time looking at these data. Everyone who chooses to work in academia will have to go through many things that are quite opposite to their initial imaginations.  If there is not a true attachment to science or technology, this road will be very painful, and not worth to follow. On the other hands, if one has this attachment, it is easier for her to detach from the many of the unfairness or cruelness in this world. 

However, to be able to do what you like, is a luxury. For most people, there is no such choice. To have this choice, I think there are two ways: First, to be born with a silver spoon in the mouth.  Rich people have many choices.  Second, you need to have certain technique that only a few people possess, and there are ones who are willing to pay for your technique. I think a shortcut is through 5 years of doctoral training, to acquire the technique you want. This technique is not only your hobby, but also your job. So this is my second suggestion: find a mentor who is capable to teach you hand-by-hand the techniques you need.

One big difference between PhD and undergraduate is that you do not have a lot opportunities to experience the so-called 'campus culture', or get to know many professors. Instead, It is like getting married, you need to stay with someone for five or six years.  When I chose my advisor, people all said I was not wise. Because my advisor was just an assistant professor at that time, and bioinformatics was a new discipline and was not favored by some traditional molecular biologists. I chose my advisor among my three rotation labs not because I thought she was able to help me in the future, or that I foresight to the future of bioinformatics. But because I was a bit scared to talk to the other two. I just want to live a nice life for 5 years. So my last suggestion is to find an advisor who you feel you like to stay with for a very long time.




我觉得大多数选择读博士的同学,至少在开始的时候,对科学或者技术多多少少还是有一些理想或者幻想的。那么最重要的,就是找一个同样,还有一些追求的导师。很多人做教授,爱的并不是科研,而是教授这个头衔。或者是阴错阳差,进了火坑专业,做了很多年博士后,失去了跳出火坑的机会。 在我工作之后接触的一部分教授,当然也包括一些我工作之前接触的,他们其实是非常痛恨科研的。在我的学科,信息生物,就表现在一行代码也不想碰;提到编程序,一脸鄙夷或者近而远之的表情。在他们独立实验室的那一天,也就是科研生命的结束的那一天,因为他们再也不会去做甚至实质上的关心任何一个实验了。当然他们还会说,我们实验室对XX问题非常感兴趣;但是,这个‘非常感兴趣’,不过是在说,没有这个问题,我就只好要饭啦。他们还会关心文章和资金,但那些不过是讨生活的资本。这样的人还是可以成为在别人眼里非常成功的人,但这样的人生是非常可悲的。而当你发现你曾经憧憬的那些名校教授也不过是在为了讨生活苦苦挣扎,为了可笑又可悲的名誉玩弄权术,你的价值观是会崩塌的。


但是,可以做自己喜欢的事,是一种奢侈品。绝大部分的人生,并没有这个选择。要想有这种选择,有两条路:第一,李刚是你爸。有些人是喊着金钥匙出生的,他们就可以选择自己喜欢做的事。第二,你需要有一样只有很少人有的本事,而且有人愿意付钱让你做这件事。我觉得一条捷径,就是通过5年博士的训练,得到一项你想要的技术:这项技术既是你的爱好,又是你的饭碗。 所以我的第二个建议是,找一个有能力手把手教给你这些技术的导师。


Monday, December 18, 2017

An Unpleasant Conversation

(My students asked me to translate the things I write into English, so that all of them can read).

Today at my daughters' Chinese school, I heard a conversation between two parents.

A middle-aged woman, with her teen-aged daughter, asked aloud, "why was your daughter rejected (by colleges)?"

Everyone's eyes turned towards a gray-haired man, whose looked down to the floor. He stammered that it was just 'defer' from the early-admission school, and that there are other schools pending. He explained that an admission may be followed by the deferring school.

The woman went on simpering, "Oh, I thought there was no school admitting her. So there is still chance.  I was wondering why you got all the decisions so early....".

The man's face turned purple and nodded "Yes, yes, there is still chance".

At that moment, I wanted to stand up and help the poor dad to explain.

Everyone has emotion: everyone can feel happy and sad, and has joy and anger. Yet, not everyone has compassion. Compassion is an ability, a quality, that some, or most, people do not possess. The suffering of others, to those who do not have this ability, is nothing more than a conversation piece.

For the kids, college admission is the end result of years of hard work. Being deferred in EA, their whole Christmas will be filled with sadness.  But, to this mother, obviously, the hard works of other kids, the failure of other kids and the pain that other kids have to go through, are merely talking pieces!

Will she laugh and talk so easily when her own daughter gets deferred?

Throughout my life, I have seen numerous people who lack compassion -- sometimes as the sufferer, more times as a bystander. The more I see such people, the deeper is my sympathy towards them.

I have a colleague, who came back from an NIH study section, announced loudly from the other end of the hallway across the entire department:'Yuanfang, your proposal was in the not-discussed pile'.

Some of our professors, when giving students qualifying exam, put their feet on the table and speak out 'makes no sense', like a king sentencing a prisoner to death. And when the poor students try to explain, they shrug.

A daycare teacher, picked up a little child who cried for his mother, threw him onto the floor, shouting out 'Stop! What is the matter with you?'.

Why? Life is bitter to them. Life is ruthless and harsh to them, so they are ruthless to the ones who are more wretched than themselves. They themselves are struggling to live, so when seeing others' struggle, they are comforted, pacified and numbed for a moment. And, when they become accustomed to the numbness, their hearts are gradually hardened, and lose the ability of compassion forever.

I am sorry, for these hearts of stone.




一个头发花白的男人,在众目睽睽之下,尴尬的解释,只是Early Admission 一所学校被defer,还有别的学校,也有可能后面再被这所defer的学校录取。




同情同情,compassion。喜怒哀乐,人人都会有。但是compassion,是一种能力,是一种素质,有些人是没有的。 他人的痛苦,对于没有这种能力的人来说,不过是幸灾乐祸的材料。

对于很多孩子来说,大学录取在哪里,是他们几年努力的最终结果。EA defer之后,整个圣诞节都过不好。但是,对于这位妈妈,别人孩子的努力,别人孩子的失败,别人孩子的痛苦,不过是谈资!



我有一个同事,一次从NIH的一个study section回来。他在楼道那头,大声的说,远芳,你的项目没有被讨论。

我们有些老师,在学生考qualify的时候,好像是国王在决定犯人的生死。他们把脚放在桌上,嘴里说出来‘makes no sense'。可怜的学生紧张局促的解释,他们只是耸耸肩。




Saturday, November 25, 2017



有的事情,在别人眼里可以是微不足道的小事,可是对于受伤的人来说,可以是几年,几十年,甚至是一辈子走不出来。已经过去两年多了,这件事情却一直纠缠在我心里。多少个夜晚,那一幕重现,泪水慢慢浸透枕头。 即便当着人,我也要咬住嘴唇,才能忍住眼泪。并不是那么一点得失真的会对我有什么影响;后来,我又赢了无数的比赛,发了许许多多的文章。只是那种无助,绝望的感觉,曾在我心里戳下深深的一刀,每当我想揭掉那层痂的时候,血就会淌出来,痛就会刺进心肺。当我需要帮助的时候,没有人站出来帮我。我多么希望,时间可以倒流,让现在的我可以抱抱那个可怜的孩子。


Saturday, October 14, 2017