It is beneficial to work in, or with a supervisor from, a cultural background that differs from one's own in order to learn a different culture and experience a different style of supervision. My style, for example, is quite friendly. I like to give my students a lot of freedom and treat them as equals in our discussions so that they feel that they have my full support without being "under supervision" so to speak.
I received my Ph.D. from Changchun Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and arrived in Sweden in the year 2000 as a post-doc. I found that the working environment was very different both in terms of the culture and the equipment. In the last ten years or so the differences in equipment has shrunk as China has developed in terms of economy and resources, but the differences in culture remain. Here in Sweden there is a high awareness of gender inequalities and institutions actively focus on helping out female researchers to achieve their full potential and there are more opportunities for females here.
In Sweden the Ph.D. students have a high level of freedom and autonomy. Supervisors are very accessible to students and students are taught to be independent and self-reliant.
Ph.D. work in Sweden is free in nature and the quality of life for a Ph.D. student is high. The opportunities for international cooperation are higher in Sweden as well. For example, each Ph.D. student has an opportunity to attend an international conference every year, which leads to rapid growth, network building and advancement opportunities.
I pay attention on cultivating students’ creativity and appreciate their new ideas. I support and encourage them to become independent. For example, two of my exchange students (Yinhua Zhou and Weiwei Li) have been selected by the “Thousand Talent Program for Young Outstanding Scientists” and already recruited as professors in China.
In 2014 Prof. Fengling Zhang became one of Linkoping University's two Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers, ranking among the top 1% most cited in her subject field and year of publication, and earning her the mark of Exceptional Impact as certified by Thomson Reuters.
Prof. Zhang's work centers on organic based solar cells made from organic solutions which, compared to silicon based solar cells, have an advantage in their low cost. Layer structure organic solar cells based on organic materials can also be printed on flexible substrates and be semi-transparent for installation on windows.
For full scale production the solar cell is printed using a rotary press on a continuous substrate, leading to a high production speed and low production cost.
Prof. Zhang's research interests include:
- Exploring new materials: new donor materials including both polymers and soluble small molecules and new acceptor materials.
- Investigating the correlation between device performance and band-gaps, as well as the optical, electrical and packing properties of various polymers and soluble small molecules.
- Studying the mechanism of charge generation and recombination in organic solar cells.
- Exploring new device structures and processing conditions.
- Applying organic solar cells to low energy demand devices.
- Integrating multifunctional devices.
- Detecting bioluminescence with organic photodetectors.
Amongst Prof. Zhang's research ready for commercialization is a "solar-powered smart window" where a solar cell is applied to an electrochromic device containing electrochromic polymer film. The film can change transmittance depending on the needs of the user, for example darkening the window during times of intense sunlight, and is powered by integrated solar cells.
Practical usage examples could be a film on car windows that becomes opaque when the car is parked, preventing the car from heating up during summer and also making it less lucrative for thieves as they could not see if there are any valuables inside the car.
This project is funded by the Swedish Research Council, a part of the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research, and conducted by collaborating with Prof. John R. Reynolds at Georgia Tech. USA. Prof. Reynolds is the Director of the Georgia Tech Polymer Network, has published over 325 peer-reviewed scientific papers, holds 25 patents, has served as a co-editor of the “Handbook of Conducting Polymers”, and is a recipient of the ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science.
The project is currently actively looking for industry partners to commercialize this solution.
Bioluminescence detecting with organic photodetectors in HCT-116 colon cancer cells
Prof. Zhang is leading an interdisciplinary project financed by LiU which explores methods to detect bioluminescence using organic photodetectors (OPDs) for biosensing applications. This project is a collaboration with Dr. Wing Cheung Mak at Biosensors & Bioelectronics Centre, which is part of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at Linköping University, and Prof. Xiao-Feng Sun, Department of Oncology and Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, also at Linköping University.
The project aims to use OPDs as a miniaturized, cost-effective approach for near-field detecting bioluminescence in the gene expression of colon cancer cells. Current technology is based on large equipment, such as bioluminescent readers and bioluminescent imaging system, which requires intensive and time consuming procedures.
Photodetectors use the same device geometry as solar cells to convert optical signals into electric signals and high quantum efficiency organic solar cells could be used to create cost effective, light-weight and flexible OPDs for detecting bioluminescence from biochemical reactions. Such a solution will provide a new tool for better understanding the mechanism on the development of colon cancer, and thus helping scientists to identify therapy response of colon cancer.