Interview with Dr. Majid Khan, University of Science and Technology in Beijing

Good afternoon! I’m Dr. Majid Khan. I received my PhD in Geophysics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2018 and have been a full-time permanent faculty member at the University of Science and Technology, Beijing, since 2020. 

Besides my wide professional and academic background, I served as the Vice President of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, USA. I actively promote scientific and technological cooperation between China and Pakistan, and other SCO countries.

Yulia: Many young specialists from the SCO countries would like to get an education in China. What should they be ready for to apply for a Ph.D. in China?

When pursuing a Ph.D. in China, prospective students from the SCO countries should precisely prepare for various key aspects, contingent on the specific program of interest. Commencing with prospective Ph.D. candidates, drawing from my own experiences, I recommend the following considerations:

1. Develop a comprehensive research proposal based on Master’s research experiences, maintaining a concise yet impactful document of 3-5 pages. Accompany this with a compelling CV that highlights academic achievements and relevant experiences.

2. Carefully select a university renowned for its ranking in the pertinent major. Explore the relevant department and identify professors aligned with your proposed research. Scrutinize the professor’s profile, browse his/her areas of interest and previous works.

3. Craft a professional email, ensuring brevity within 4-5 sentences while employing straightforward language. Avoid sending the CV unsolicited; rather, aim to convey your potential convincingly. Given the number of similar requests, presenting an appealing idea is pivotal to capturing the professor’s attention. It is prudent to request an acceptance letter early in the communication process.

4. Anticipate that the professor may seek a formal online interview before providing an acceptance letter. Commonly, questions revolve around academic qualifications, prior research experiences, language proficiency, and future research direction. The preparation of a well-thought-out research proposal proves invaluable in this context.

5. During the interview, articulate your responses fluently and concisely, employing friendly and simple English. Emphasize your research direction convincingly to secure the supervisor’s acceptance.

6. Upon obtaining the acceptance letter, proceed to compile and notarize all educational documents, ensuring authentication from the notary public, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Chinese Embassy in your home country. Additionally, prepare 2-3 recommendation letters from professors at your Master’s studies institution.

For Master’s prospective students, the subsequent steps align with those for Ph.D. candidates, with the notable inclusion of mandatory Chinese language proficiency for many universities. Accordingly, it is advisable to undertake preparation for HSK-4 in your home country before initiating the university application process. The specific document requirements for the Chinese Government Scholarship Council (CSC) for Ph.D. admission may vary slightly depending on the program and university.

My Ph.D. dissertation was focused on the tectonics of the Indian Ocean, strategically positioned as a gateway to the One Belt and One Road Initiative. I specifically concentrated on the Offshore Pakistan side — a significant geological province for resource exploration and trade between China, Pakistan, and neighboring countries.

As a result of my efforts, I had the opportunity to present my work in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland during my studies. 

This experience serves as motivation for prospective students, emphasizing that dedicating energy to research can open doors for their careers, particularly in China.

Yulia: In the modern world, the “green” transition is not only a trend but also a necessity for sustainable global development. What do you think China’s major achievements in this field are?

China has made significant strides in the “green” transition, aligning with the standards required for sustainable global development greener energy to greener economy and so on. China invested $80 billion on clean-energy manufacturing last year but the globe is still falling a short of the estimated $4 trillion annually to meet climate goals.

According to my knowledge, China’s some major achievements in this transition include:

1) Renewable energy expansion: China leads the world in renewable energy capacity, particularly in solar and wind power.China has heavily invested in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and wind farms, contributing to a substantial increase in renewable energy generation.

2) Electric vehicle (EV) adoption: China is the largest market for electric vehicles globally. Government policies promoting electric mobility, subsidies, and investment in charging infrastructure have accelerated the adoption of electric cars.

3) Carbon neutrality commitment: China has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, signaling a profound commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Policies and initiatives are being implemented to transition away from fossil fuels and enhance energy efficiency. With the aim of transitioning towards cleaner energy sources, the government has outlined plans to fully exploit and utilize most coal resources by 2030, followed by a cessation of their utilization. This strategic approach aligns with broader efforts to shift away from fossil fuels and embrace more sustainable energy practices.

4) Afforestation and ecological conservation: In recent years, China has been at the forefront of afforestation efforts, planting over 7.7 million hectares of trees in 2021 alone, contributing significantly to combating desertification and enhancing carbon sequestration. Additionally, the country has established more than 12,000 national parks and protected areas, encompassing approximately 18% of its land area, proving a substantial commitment to ecological conservation. These proactive measures show China’s dedication to addressing environmental challenges through tangible, large-scale initiatives.

5) Circular economy initiatives: In recent years, China’s commitment to a circular economy is evident in its achievement of recycling rates exceeding 90% for key industries, emphasizing remarkable resource efficiency and waste reduction. Government policies have facilitated the sustainable use of materials, leading to a substantial reduction in environmental impact and positioning China as a global leader in circular economy practices. This strategic emphasis on sustainability aligns with broader environmental goals and fosters a more resource-efficient and eco-friendly industrial landscape.

6) International cooperation: China’s proactive engagement in international collaborations on environmental issues is underscored by its commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), where green development principles are integrated into infrastructure projects. Particularly, this commitment has resulted in the establishment of over 100 green BRI demonstration projects, promoting sustainable practices in partner countries and exemplifying China’s global leadership in environmentally conscious development. This collaboration aligns with a shared vision for a greener and more sustainable future on an international scale.

Yulia: What skills does a young scholar in China need to have in order to find a good job?

A young scholar in China aiming to secure a good job should possess a blend of technical proficiency, adaptability, and soft skills. Proficiency in relevant technologies, a strong academic foundation, and the ability to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings are essential. 

Effective communication, problem-solving capabilities, adaptability to evolving work environments, and a proactive attitude towards continuous learning are crucial skills that enhance a young scholar’s employability in the competitive job market.

Yulia: What challenges did you have when you were studying Chinese language? And how did you solve them?

Despite the English-centric academic environment, I maintained a strong interest in learning Chinese. Initially, I attended introductory classes for three months to grasp basic terms. Realizing the importance of expanding my vocabulary for fluent communication, I actively engaged with local people, especially in everyday situations like shopping, and fostered friendships with Chinese individuals.

I am genuinely impressed by the friendly character of the Chinese people, who consistently supported me, corrected my language errors, and encouraged my learning efforts.

Yulia: What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career path in China?

If I were at the start of my career path in China, I would advise myself to focus on continuous language improvement, actively engage with the local community to enhance cultural understanding, and leverage networking opportunities within both academic and corporate spheres. 

Additionally, I would emphasize the importance of balancing theoretical knowledge gained during studies with practical skills, ensuring a holistic approach to professional development. Staying open to learning, embracing challenges, and maintaining a proactive attitude would be key elements in navigating and succeeding in the dynamic professional landscape in China.