Postgraduate Student Life @ CUHK
PhD Student in Biochemistry
HKPFS Awardee

An Opportunity to Shine: A Journey to Greatness

For Reza Yekta Saadabad, his world changed when he was awarded HK$1.69 million to pursue his PhD in Biochemistry through the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme (HKPFS) at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The star student was also a recipient of the Belt and Road Scholarship, which is supported by the HKSAR Government to help groom future graduates to build strong links between their home communities and Hong Kong.

Coming from Iran, these opportunities were a real chance for Reza to  “revolutionize my future career as a scientist”. Having done his undergraduate studies and working as a research assistant for several years at the University of Tabriz, Reza is interested to further pursue his research and studies in molecular biology, protein structures and enzymes.

A chance for greatness

Attracted by CUHK’s ranking as one of the best universities in the world, Reza was motivated to apply to CUHK. “I applied for this programme at CUHK as I wanted to be sure that it could improve my skills and allow me to be a specialist,” he explained.

Reza’s current research involves designing biocatalysts to produce important chemicals for application in the pharmaceutical industry. The production of these crystal-enzyme biocatalysts is a novel biological technology established in his laboratory and Reza uses it for the synthesis of genetically immobilized enzymes.

Doing research within such a specialist field requires working with some of the best laboratories in the world, so he said that CUHK therefore seemed an ideal choice. Yet when he started his studies here, he had yet another surprise. 

“Everything was far beyond my expectations,” said Reza. “The labs are competitive, productive, there is great intelligence at the lab, and all the competition is the motivational force that gets you moving forward. It’s so excellent in the way it spurs each of us on.”

Reza’s keen personal motivation to learn and excel meant that he was thrilled to be among the greats.

“I want to be a professional in my research field, and I want to expand my knowledge and skills, I can do so much here. All the students and professors here are so accessible, so are the research techniques, equipment and research,” he said.


The Sky is the Limit

Yet another aspect that impressed Reza was the fact that there are no limitations when it comes to students’ learning. He noted that in his courses, it was heart-warming to see undergraduates, master’s students and PhD students sometimes sitting together in class. Although the expectations and examinations are different, everyone is able to come together to enjoy their learning and explore based on their interests.

For a scientist working on advanced research, the access to lab equipment and financial backing, as well as supervisory support is paramount, and Reza said that in this regard CUHK also exceeded all his expectations.

“I’ve never been in such a supportive environment, basically anything you need, there are no limitations, so this means that it’s a very efficient environment for you to do your work,” he shared.

Reza visibly beamed as he talked about his experiences at CUHK noting that the learning and research have been simply put: “out of this world”, he said.  Equally, he spoke of his love for being in Hong Kong. From the food to the amazing landscape, to the seaside and the society itself, he noted that it is a real privilege to be able to carry out his research work in a place like Hong Kong.


An Invaluable Experience

Going back to his experiences as a PhD student in his second year at CUHK, Reza described it as a combination of learning, doing research, and gaining valuable teaching assistant experiences.

“I’ve learnt how to manage students, how I need to write and I have also learned how I need to ask for help from others, to learn these principles and protocols — this was completely different to my previous experiences and it’s improved all aspects of my skills which is necessary for conducting lab work,” he said.

For those considering making an application and a move to CUHK, Reza made many recommendations, but said his greatest advice is that: “If you want to go to a new community and society, you might feel afraid of the different cultures at first, but those are just fake fears. Come here and enjoy the research and study and see Hong Kong, you won’t regret it.”