Nanjing is a city of 8.3 million people located about two hours outside of Shanghai, China. Nanjing, the second largest city in East China, is one of the four ancient capitals of China. It once served as the center of various Chinese dynasties and kingdoms.
It was also home to a young Xinhua Pan, Ph.D. She is HORIBA Scientific’s Applications Specialist for the company’s Optical Spectroscopy Division.
Pan traveled a long road to get from Nanjing to Piscataway, New Jersey, HORIBA Scientific’s headquarters.
She spent her early years in Nanjing’s urban area, excelling in the sciences. Her parents were professionals - her father was a researcher in Library Science with a background of Atmospheric Physics. Her mother was an accountant.
Pan benefited from her dad, who was working in the university library. She went to her dad’s workplace during the summer and winter breaks and read many scientific storybooks.
“I loved reading science fiction when I was a child,” she said.
Pan liked science in elementary school. The facility had a class called “Nature”, which included the Earth, the weather, and the animals.
Pan’s elementary school teacher played a key role in her development as a scientist. He taught engaging classes, and let the students do a lot of hands-on experiments.
In high school, students were separated into two groups – one being liberal arts and the other being the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The schools allowed students to test for the various programs. Pan liked physics and scored high in the subject. The sciences became her course of study throughout high school.
Pan attended Nanjing University, among the top tier institutions in China. She chose Physics as her major.
“The professors of the Physics department came from almost all the cutting edge fields, such as Condensed Matters, Particle Physics, and Quantum Optics,” she said. “Before I graduated, I focused on Microelectronics.”
After graduation, Pan became an editor of scientific textbooks at Nanjing University Press. She dealt with physics, mathematics, engineering and other topics. Pan served in that role for almost three years.
Yet she was restless. Wanting to pursue a Ph.D., she enrolled in Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her area of study was Molecular Optics, in quantum effect and high-resolution spectroscopic research.
Following her Ph.D., Pan did post-doctoral research, continuing her work in Molecular Optics for more than half a year. That’s when she joined HORIBA Scientific’s Optical Spectroscopy Division.
“As application scientists, we are mostly focusing on the application of our instruments,” she said. “We often discuss with our customers their research and experimental requirements. We're interested in expanding the application field of our instruments.”
The Optical Spectroscopy Division develops customers’ solutions, both applications and devices, for uses where limited instruments or techniques yet exist.
For example, some customers’ research covers various spectroscopies, such as Raman, Photoluminescence, Reflectance, and TCSPC spectroscopy. Yet their budget restricts them from buying an entire branded instrument, or several instruments. OSD can integrate all the functions in one instrument, and customize the components specifically to the customers’ research.
“We sometimes test the instruments using customers’ samples,” she said. “We show our customers how well our instrument can perform based on their applications, and how to achieve different results by manipulating the hardware and software.”
Pan also provides post-sales support. After purchasing the customized instrument from HORIBA Scientific, the customer might need additional training or tips on how to optimize the performance of the instrument.
Being a woman in the sciences was never was unusual for Pan. The graduates from her group at Temple University were about 50/50 men to women. Her advisor was a woman.
“She’s an excellent advisor, especially as a positive female scientist,” Pan said. “She encouraged us a lot, especially when I was pregnant during my studies. She gave me a lot of support. I appreciated that.”
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