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Cheryl Qian

New grad and new mother Cheryl Qian, with son Cailean, has accepted a job as a tenure-track assistant professor at Purdue University where she’ll help develop a new graduate program in interactive arts and technology.

PhD grad is taking her skill set and her sense of humour to new job in U.S.

October 8, 2009

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By Helena Bryan

Talk about being in demand. Shortly after finishing her PhD in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) in the summer of 2009, Zhenyu Cheryl Qian scored nine interviews for faculty positions at prestigious universities throughout the U.S.

After the first three interviews in Arizona, Maryland and Indiana, Qian canceled the next six. Not because she was three months’ pregnant and tired of traveling, but because right after her third interview at Purdue University’s main campus in Lafayette, Indiana, she was offered a position. An impressive one at that: a tenure-tracked assistant professorship with Purdue’s School of Visual and Performing Arts where she will develop a new graduate program.

"I was told during the interview that it was hard to find candidates who have both solid design skills and human-computer interaction education," says Qian. No surprise that after working so hard to earn a BA in architecture in her home country of China, her master’s in applied science and now her PhD, the latter both from the SIAT program, she’d be eager to share her skills and knowledge.

She’s keen, despite the kind of challenges that might crush the enthusiasm of someone less grounded. Her new son Cailean will be a mere three months old when she starts her new position at Purdue. To meet U.S. regulations, she and her young family can’t enter the States with the H-1B visa until 10 days before her contract with the university begins, which means they’ll arrive on Christmas day to bare lodgings; their belongings will follow at the end of January. "I’ll start to work with an empty house and a crying baby," she quips, with surprising humour.

Clearly, Qian’s impressive credentials were vital to securing her a promising academic career; just as clearly, her sense of humour will allow her to balance it with her role as a new mom.

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