Three years ago, chemist David Leigh was ambushed by a smiling master’s student from Fudan University waving a CV and looking for a PhD position at Leigh’s lab in the United Kingdom.
Leigh, who leads a world-renowned lab at the University of Manchester, had just given a talk on molecular structures in Shanghai. But he was not familiar with Fudan. “I know now it’s one of the top universities in China, but I’ll admit I didn’t then,” he says.
The chemist, a fellow of the Royal Society, has become used to the huge enthusiasm exhibited by early-career Chinese scientists who attend his lectures in China. “There’ll be crowds at 8.30 a.m. and students gather afterwards for autographs.” The CV-brandishing Zhang Liang stood out. Keen to study overseas, he knew winning one of the 10 places available each year at Leigh’s prestigious lab was a long shot, so he pushed himself forward.