Professor overcomes faith, science barriers

Growing up in China, Dr. Hannah (Ying) Hu did not picture herself as a professor. The biology experiments her parents performed to help farmers successfully grow crops attracted the associate chemistry professor to life as a scientist.

Hu saw the importance of what science could do for the community and said the work to which her parents exposed her resonated with her so much that toys and dolls did not capture her attention.

“I thought I would become a ‘serious scientist,’ working in a lab, morning and (night), and using my creativity to build molecules out of imagination or theories,” Hu said.

While studying at Dalian University of Technology in Liaoning, China, Hu majored in chemical engineering. Post-graduation, a German candle company hired her to develop color and fragrance recipes for their products, but her curiosity was not satisfied by simply working in someone else’s lab.

This led her to enter a Ph.D. program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio that focused on photochemical science. She struggled with being in a new country, becoming fluent in a new language and balancing her faith with the demands of her doctoral program.

“When I went to research seminars, I could only get 30-40 percent of what the speaker was talking about,” Hu said. “I did have an English degree. It still took me about two years to understand how to communicate and share what I’m thinking.”

There, she saw firsthand how people in the science field responded to religion.

“It seems like the science field has nothing to do with God,” Hu said. “When we started to invite people to Bible study, I had someone say, ‘I’m a scientist. I have no relationship with your group.’ I didn’t know how to address that.”

During her final year in the doctoral program, Hu leaned on Bible studies, Sunday church services and her Christian host family for support after she and her husband learned she was pregnant.

A new career possibility as an adjunct professor at a small college changed her career plans.  After accepting, her first class was composed of students who had an eagerness to learn that surprised her.

“At the end of the semester, a student wrote me a note that said what she learned was more important than the grade,” Hu said. “It made me feel so rewarded.”

Hu’s desire to teach onlygrew from there. She waited for the right position to be placed in her path. A job presented itself, but she felt the Lord telling her that it was not time yet.

“I was crying, ‘Lord, if I say no, please, you have to provide me a better one,’” Hu said. “I know I was seeking his will, and I did the right thing for my family. I had to be patient at that moment.”

When California Baptist University presented her with a job offer, she said her moment finally arrived. The position provided  the opportunity to teach, conduct research and act as a Chinese Bible study fellowship adviser.

“God changed the person I thought I would be — a serious scientist — to become a teacher,” Hu said. “God opened my eyes to (show) me students were the ones he wanted me to serve.”

Serious scientific research in Hu’s classroom and lab comes together with prayer and faith.

“Dr. Hu made her faith evident,” Carl Carson, senior biology major, said. “She prayed before every meeting and encouraged the students to trust the Lord to guide us in our endeavors.”


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