Westlake University in Hangzhou offers one of the most comprehensive and experiential Biology Ph.D. programs in China. Westlake’s School of Life Science provides a supportive academic environment with opportunities for interdisciplinary research across the life sciences and related fields. Students in this program have been actively contributing to the development of new technologies and new scientific innovations.
Every Ph.D. student in the biology program is provided a full-tuition fellowship and financial support for advanced research. In addition, every Ph.D. student at Westlake is required to be a Research Assistant starting in their first semester and lasting all the way until graduation. Ph.D. students also gain teaching experience in Westlake’s Teaching Assistant Program for one or more semesters, giving them the confidence and experience they need to take on faculty teaching positions after they graduate. This hands on, immersive style of research and teaching experience makes Westlake graduates some of the most qualified, knowledgeable, and sought-after scientists in their field.
In this article we introduce Westlake University’s Ph.D. in Biology program, courses offered, and Westlake’s globally respected faculty. This article also showcases the advantages of studying in Westlake’s Ph.D. in Biology program and the admissions process.
Westlake University’s School of Life Sciences strives to nurture and support Ph.D. students to become world-class leaders and innovators in the life sciences and in related interdisciplinary research fields. Ph.D. students in this program benefit from Westlake’s international focus and international opportunities, gaining a broad international vision and a strong sense of social responsibility.
Ph.D. students in the biology program are expected to master a comprehensive body of knowledge across all related life science disciplines and to develop an in-depth and systematic understanding of the latest related innovations and technologies.
Courses Offered in the Ph.D. Biology Program
Students in the Ph.D. in Biology program are supported by a world-class academic community and courses are taught by distinguished experts, including University President Yigong Shi, Vice President Tian Xu, and distinguished Deans and Chair Professors like Hongtao Yu, and Duanqing Pei.
Listed below are a selection of general courses offered to Ph.D. students in the biology program:
- Fundamental Biological Processes and Concepts I
- Fundamental Biological Processes and Concepts II
- Statistical Analysis of Genetic Data
- Population Health and Nutrition Epidemiology
- Cancer Biology
- Basic Concepts of Genetic Analysis
- Method and Logic in Life Sciences
- Frontiers of Biomedical Sciences
- Advanced Biochemistry
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology
- Structural Biology
- Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
- Biology Classic Papers Discussion
- Group Problem Solving in Chromosome Biology
- Fundamentals and Frontiers of Immunology
- Mathematical and Biological Foundation of Reinforcement Learning
- A Basic Introduction to Scientific Writing in Biomedical Sciences
- Chinese language courses
The School of Life Science’s “2 + 1” Lab Rotation System:
Westlake University’s School of Life Science has implemented a forward thinking “2+1” lab rotation system. This program allows first-year Ph.D. students in the biology program the opportunity to choose their Ph.D. Academic Supervisors after gaining experience in more than one laboratory. After two rounds of lab rotations, Ph.D. students select their supervisors. Academic Supervisors provide Ph.D. students with laboratory research experience, mentorship, and serve as Dissertation Chair for the Ph.D. thesis. Each lab rotation lasts for 4 weeks. If after the first two rounds you have not selected an Academic Supervisor, you will be able to apply for a third rotation.
Key Faculty Members in Westlake’s Ph.D. in Biology Program:
Part of what makes Westlake University special is they have attracted an impressive community of world-class faculty. Westlake professors attended some of the world’s most prestigious universities including MIT, Caltech, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. What’s more, their entire senior leadership team have studied or held positions at universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, UPenn, UIUC and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. As a student at Westlake University, you will have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from these globally renowned scientific leaders on a daily basis.
Below is an introduction to some Westlake faculty associated with the Ph.D. in Biology program. Even Westlake’s top university leadership are experts in their field and continue to teach graduate-level courses to their Ph.D. students.
Yigong Shi received his bachelor’s degree in Biology with the highest honor from Tsinghua University and his Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Yigong Shi is an expert in structural biology and biochemical and biophysical approaches towards fundamental cellular events.
Dr. Tian Xu received his B.S. degree from Fudan University and his Ph.D. from Yale University. In addition, Dr. Tian Xu was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California. Dr. Tian Xu is the Chair Professor of Genetics and Vice President at Westlake University. Prof. Xu’s work mainly focuses on mechanism of growth control and new genetic and biotech methods. He pioneered genetic dissection of growth control and identified all the key growth regulators and pathways including PTEN/TSC/mTor and Lats/Hippo.
Dr. Hongtao YU received his B.S. in Chemistry from Peking University in 1990 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University in 1995. Dr. Yu studies the cellular mechanisms that govern chromosome inheritance and integrity, focusing on understanding the spindle checkpoint and sister-chromatid cohesion-cellular systems and processes that ensure all chromosomes are properly segregated during cell division.
Westlake University hosts an impressive group of forward thinking and renowned professors. You can learn more about them here.
The 7 Research Fields in the Ph.D. in Biology Program
The 7 research fields in Westlake’s Ph.D. in Biology program are tailored to unlocking the potential within every student and allowing them to pursue their individual research goals and research interests. It is also possible to combine studies and research goals from multiple research fields.
Biophysics & Biochemistry
In the School of Life Science’s Biophysics and Biochemistry Program you will focus on the structure and function of biomacromolecules and their complex biological processes among, and related to, major diseases. Doctoral students in this program investigate protein expressions, modifications, and interacting principles under physiological or pathological conditions. You will also explore development mechanisms of diseases and seek to discover new treatment methods through multidisciplinary approaches.
Within this program, Westlake faculty have made important discoveries that stand at the forefront of research, including, mechanisms of nuclear pore complex assembly, mRNA splicing, and research on the processes of Covid-19 infection.
Ph.D. students in the Cell Biology research field can focus their studies on stem cell research, cancer cell research, immune cell research, or neural cell research. The Cell Biology program also explores cellular homeostasis, fate determination, cell-cell communication, organelle functionalities during development, ageing, and disease pathogenesis. The Cell Biology program also investigates our contemporary understanding of the fundamental biological theories and principles including the biochemical and biophysical principles underlying cell replication and proliferation, cancer initiation and progression, pathogen-host interaction, as well as brain physiology and brain disorders.
Faculty in the Cell Biology program have made many internationally recognized scientific achievements in areas such as cell division, cell migration, genome duplication and transcription, cellular stress response, signaling transduction, genome stability, and fate determination.
Genetics & Developmental Biology
In the School of Life Science’s Genetics and Developmental Biology program you will unlock the fundamental principles of genetics at the molecular, cellular, individual, and population levels. Students in this program also seek to understand how alterations of these principles affect disease, ageing, and regeneration. School of Life Science laboratories in this program are conducting world-leading research utilizing vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms and human subjects. Multi-disciplinary approaches and technologies including genetics, developmental biology, cell biology, immunology, molecular biology, evolution, AI, and bioinformatics are employed in both basic and translational research.
Faculty in this program have conducted world-leading research in vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms and/or human subjects in addition to multi-disciplinary approaches and technologies.
Immunology & Microbiology
In the School of Life Science’s Immunology and Microbiology program you can focus your research on virology, bacteriology, vaccinology, innate and adaptive immunity, cancer immunology, and microbial-host interactions. The Immunology and Microbiology program seeks to identify novel mechanisms of immune regulation and to unlock the mysteries of pathogenic microorganisms and their interactions with the host. Students in the Immunology and Microbiology program seek to solve major scientific bottlenecks and key technical issues associated with the mechanisms, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases. The goal is to translate these scientific discoveries into effective clinical applications to treat major human diseases.
The School of Life Science’s Neurobiology research field is a highly interdisciplinary research program that is committed to understanding how the nervous system works and seeks to discover new ways to prevent or treat neurological disorders. The program is at the very forefront of technology and methods that decode neural networks underlying complex cognitive behaviors, elucidate how nervous systems interact with peripheral organs, and analyze neurovascular and neuroimmune units and the underlying regulatory mechanisms. The program aims to discover how these functions are disrupted by disease and find new approaches to treating these diseases.
The Chemical Biology research field integrates chemistry and biology to develop advanced chemical synthesis, chemical analysis, and biological analysis techniques to explore, intervene, and manipulate complex life processes. The program is dedicated to achieving a series of technological breakthroughs which will empower fundamental biomedical research as well as translational research. Key members of this program have strong expertise in the fields of natural small molecule discovery, small molecule biological probe development, small molecule drug discovery, and peptide and protein design and engineering.
Faculty in this program have achieved technological breakthroughs in natural small molecule discovery, small molecule biological probe development, small molecule drug discovery, and peptide and protein design and engineering.
Systems & Synthetic Biology
In the Systems and Synthetic Biology research field you will learn multiple skills and methods that are at the forefront of international research, including systems biology, synthetic biology, computational biology, and biotechnology. The Systems Biology research field investigates interactive and multifaceted networks of living systems. Ph.D. students in the Synthetic Biology area seek to design and construct new biological entities, devices, and systems.
Faculty in this program have made great strides in this field and are internationally recognized for their achievements and research.
Research Facilities at Westlake University
- Biomedical Research Core Facilities
Westlake University’s Biomedical Research Core Facilities are specifically designed to benefit their students and research programs. These facilities also provide technical solutions to real world problems and contribute to uses in medical, industry, and theoretical research.
The BRCF consists of eleven facilities including:
- Flow Cytometry
- General Equipment & Autoclave Service
- Mass Spectrometry & Metabolomics
- Phenotypic Analysis
- Protein Characterization and Crystallography Core Facilities
- Radioisotope Lab
- Laboratory Animal Resource Center
Westlake’s Laboratory Animal Resource Centre offers services for biomedical research including but not limited to:
- Optimised animal care and welfare
- Generation of genetically modified mice
- Speed expansion via IVF
- Strain rescue via IVF
- Mouse line cryopreservation and resuscitation
- Animal model development
LARC facilities are linked closely with the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) to ensure research at the facility is meeting international standards and guidelines for the care and use of animals in research.
- Westlake Center for Micro/Nano Fabrication
The Westlake Centre for Micro/Nano Fabrication comes fully equipped with advanced micro/nano fabrication and characterization tools such as:
- Mask aligner
- An electron e-beam lithography system
- X-ray microscope
- A TEMFocused He ion beam nanofabrication
- Femtosecond lasers
- Laser direct writing tools
Fabrication resolution in the Centre for Micro/Nano Fabrication is down to single digit nanometers and characterization capability is down to sub-nanometer ranges.
- Westlake High-Performance Computing Center
The Westlake High-Performance Computing Centre offers a state of the art platform for scientific computation and data analysis solutions.
- Instrumentation and Service Center for Physical Sciences
Westlake’s Instrumentation and Service Centre for Physical Sciences provides students with state-of-the-art facilities to meet routine analysis needs and to collaborate with faculty and researchers in developing novel instrumental technologies and methodologies.
This facility offers:
- X-ray diffraction
- Surface physics analysis
- Cryogenic measurement
- Electron microscopy
- Physical property characterization
- Instrumentation and Service Center for Molecular Sciences
The Instrumentation and Service Centre for Molecular Sciences facilities are shared-use offering our students a collaborative multi-disciplinary research environment to strive towards world-class molecular science breakthroughs and technical expertise.
The ISCMS consists of the following:
- Magnetic Resonance Lab
- GC/LC-MS Lab
- Spectroscopy Lab
These facilities provide:
- Qualitative and quantitative measurements of compounds and polymers
- Structural determination of functional materials
- Polypeptides and biomolecules
- Stability and dynamics analysis of pharmaceuticals and clinical markers
- Inspections of quality for water, food and drug
- Detection of environmental pollutant
How to Apply/Application Materials & Details
- Application deadline is March 31st, 2023.
- Have a master’s degree in a related subject.
- Evidence of English language proficiency.
(1) A photocopy of your passport:
Photocopy of valid passport bio data page. Passport must be an ordinary one and should not expire before December 31, 2023. Applicants currently residing in China also need to provide a copy of the page containing a valid visa or residence permit.
(2) Personal statement:
More than 1,500 words in English are required for Ph.D. applicants. The content should include (but not be limited to) why you want to study at Westlake, why you want to do research (expected content of the research proposal), personal achievements, experiences worth mentioning in your opinion, and your attitude towards life and research.
(3) All diploma and degree certificates:
The original or a notarized copy of your certificates (or proof of impending graduation for applicants in their final year of study). If the certificates are not in English or Chinese, you must also attach a notarized translation in English or Chinese.
(4) All transcripts:
The original or a notarized copy of your transcripts showing all your studies for your bachelor’s and master’s (if applicable) degrees. If the transcripts are not in English or Chinese, you must also attach a notarized translation in English or Chinese.
(5) Evidence of English language proficiency.
(6) Catalogue and abstract of published papers or other documents that prove academic ability (not compulsory).
(7) Two recommendation letters:
The referee must be a professor or a person with an equivalent academic title. The recommendation letter should be in Chinese or English and include the referee’s signature and contact information.
Tips for Successful Application:
- The following three qualities are highly valued by faculty members of the admissions committee who review applications to Westlake University’s Ph.D. programs and can make your application stand out from other highly qualified candidates:
- Former academic and research accomplishments.
- Potential for future academic and research success.
- Strength of research proposal included in the personal statement.
Tips: Each of these three qualities can be highlighted in your personal statement and by including rich supporting documents. Remember your personal statement to a Westlake University Ph.D. program is required to be over 1,500 words. So, you have plenty of space to highlight former achievements, current projects, and a detailed research proposal that connects your interests to faculty, resources, and opportunities at Westlake University. Also, remember to include information that highlights all published research articles, accolades received for your master’s thesis or other work, other prior academic achievements or awards, and certificates or evidence for presenting at academic conferences.
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