Asian Heritage Month: Lin Zhang

May 14, 2024

I am an Assistant Professor at Department of Statistics and Actuarial at SFU. My research focuses on developing statistical and machine learning tools to understand genomics and healthcare data. I also teach undergraduate- and graduate-level statistical courses.

What inspired you to choose science as a career?

Throughout my undergrad to my PhD studies, I have been intrigued by the application of statistics to solve real-life problems. My career as a research faculty gives me the freedom to work on any applied statistics problems that I am interested in. I choose the biomedical field as my primary applied research area, as I believe public health is fundamental to the well-being of our society.

What do you love most about your work?

I enjoy working on statistical problems that address real-life challenges. I also love to work and collaborate with my colleagues at SFU and beyond, which inspires me to come up with better research ideas and solutions. In teaching, I enjoy working with and learning from my trainees, and passing on my knowledge and research skills to the next generation of scientists. I am most proud of delivering statistical solutions to knowledge users and helping them gain efficiency in their research or real-life jobs.

What kinds of barriers have you faced in your work or studies?

I think culture and language barriers are the biggest challenges in my work as well as daily life. I have lived in North America for 16 years, and I am capable of working, teaching, and communicating in English. However, as a non-native English speaker, I still face challenges in efficacious communications beyond research, for example, in culture, politics, or even historic local traditions. I also need to make extra efforts and invest more time in reading and writing in English (for example, I am googling the most appropriate words to use when answering these interview questions).

Are the barriers higher for Asian scientists?

I would not say culture barriers are higher for one minority group than another, as people view culture barriers with their own standards and thus making them incomparable. I hope the vast community would acknowledge that Asian scientists are a minority group in academia and that even within the Asian minority group, we come from very different culture backgrounds.

What suggestions do you have for how to make the Faculty of Science a more welcoming space?

The Faculty of Science has made great efforts in promoting an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and welcoming space. If possible, I would love to see more culture-themed events, not only for members from the same culture background to meet and relate, but also for members from other backgrounds to learn about the culture.