Role Models: Fatemeh

Article by Malgorzata A. Garstka

Can you introduce yourself? Job title, education, languages, hobbies, your family etc.
I am Fatemeh, Ph.D. in Astrophysics, Assistant Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University, mother of a beautiful son, and a wife of a wonderful man with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics with whom I work (laughing).
We had an emotionally supportive home environment. My father always asked us to set big dreams and goals and then make them real. My parents let me do it on my own. Make my own decisions in my life with consistent support. This made me a confident person. This is an effective way to help a person grow and develop. My father always asked us to choose role models and follow in their footsteps to achieve our goals. A role model teaches you never to give up and make an effort to improve, succeed, and make a difference. He also always encouraged us to have higher education. He said education illuminates a person’s mind and thinking.
I enjoy spending time with my family on outdoor activities.
Are you from Xi’an? If not, what motivated you to come here?
I am from Iran, where I was awarded Ph.D. in astrophysics. My husband was doing a Ph.D. in Shanghai, and I came here as a visiting student. This was my first time in China. I returned to Iran to graduate and after graduation, we moved to Hefei, China, for postdoc positions. Our son was born there. After about three years living in Hefei, we moved to Xi’an because of the career development possibilities for both of us. Finding a job may be challenging since we both are working in academia. I enjoy Xi’an, its vibrant international environment, cultural diversity, and urban infrastructure. In addition, Xi’an is an excellent living environment to raise a family. I already know some basic Chinese and continue learning.
What do you do every day? What is your regular schedule? What is not “normal” work for you?
I get up at 6, have a coffee, and go to work. My son goes to the kindergarten. I do research till 5:30 pm, working on projects, reading papers, and working on publications and grants. I work together with my husband. After work, we pick up our son from the kindergarten, drive home, and have dinner and family time. Finally, I go to bed at 11 pm.
What are your most impressive
accomplishments? What
accomplishments might not impress an average person, but you are particularly proud of?
I am proud of my Ph.D. degree, son, and wonderful husband.
I am proud of being a human being. This feeling inspires me to be better as a person and do better. Showing love to all humans is a worthy goal for me. We can grow to love profoundly and take real responsibility for the things in our world. This acceptance, responsibility and rationalism define Humanism; learning how to love other people, be good to them, and treat them with respect, whether they resemble us or not.
I am proud of myself for still trying, for not giving up. I did not quit on my goals when I found it challenging to pursue. Not following your dreams makes you feel unaccomplished. I think people who follow their dreams are doers. Doers have more power to create, influence, and change their environment, and eventually, the world.
I am proud to be a good listener and not get bored listening to amazing people as I see it as an avenue to learn.
What are the biggest challenges you face in general and as a woman? What do you think these challenges exist?
The biggest challenge for me is to keep the balance between the career and the family. Actually, this issue is still challenging for all couples. It is because women like to educate to higher degrees and then they want to work. They desire to be a useful member of their society and gain financial independence. Along with motherhood, work adds to the completeness of being woman. And the dominant role in childcare is recognized to be that of the mother and that this responsibility affects the working life of women more than that of men.
What are your goals for this year? 5 years?
In one year, I would like to finish the project we are currently working on. Then, in 5-years’ time, I plan to start new projects, publish 10 papers, and speak fluent Chinese. During this time, I want to get a permanent position.
I hope the COVID-19 situation improves and regular travel can be resumed. So, my five-year plan is to travel to as many new countries as I can.
What motivated you to choose the career that you have today?
Science fiction movies (laughing). I watched many sci-fi movies when I was a teenager. I am adventurous. Indeed, any place in the world seems to me be an inspiration and can become the protagonist of my new adventure. So, I love to travel to new cities and get to know other cultures. Explore the space is also exploring a new place for me. Explore the unknown and discover new worlds. When I look the heavens, I wonder about the nature of the objects seen in the sky. I like to know more about our place and our history in the Universe.
What are your goals for this year? 5 years?
For my career, I wish I could make some progress within the next one to two years. As for personal life, I’ve been taking online courses in Psychotherapy and at the end of this year, I will finish my first stage of study. Hopefully, I can further my study around this field and build something within 5 years. We all work out and we know we should take care of our body when it comes to physical health. Taking psychological consulting/therapy or doing things like meditation would be like working out mentally, which is also essential for urban office workers to keep mentally healthy. And this is something I’m interested in besides my daily work.
What are the most important character traits you think someone who wants to pursue such a career should possess?
It would be best if you were open-minded, hard-working, patient, diligent, and listen to others because, to be a good researcher, intelligence is not enough. Success does not come by chance. A researcher should spend each minute of her time to do something useful that will make her advance toward her goals. It can be really stressful as a researcher sometimes, especially when you have pressing deadlines or are experiencing problems with a data set. When these situations occur, you just have to keep focused and think logically.
What advice do you have for other women, Chinese or foreign, who are looking to further their careers?
Set a big goal and big dreams, and follow them to make them real. I always suppose that I am a student that should learn from birth till death. Do not stop and keep forward. Say no to distraction from daily life. Surround yourself with the best and the brightest people. Challenge yourself with new ideas and topics, try new experiences to find real improvements.
More on Fatemeh’s Research:
Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe.
Astrophysics creates physical theories of small to medium-size structures in the universe. Astrophysicists seek to understand the universe and our place in it and answer these questions: How does the universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone?
Moreover, astrophysics is the physics of stars and other distant bodies in the universe. As stars age, they produce heavier and heavier elements, passing on to later generations of stars in ever-greater quantities. Only in the final stages of the lives of more recent stars, the elements making up the Earth, such as iron, oxygen, silicon, are produced. Another element is carbon that together with oxygen, makes up the bulk of the mass of all living things, including us. Thus, astrophysics tells us that, while we are not all-stars, we are all stardust.

Malgorzata is a tenure track professor at the 2nd Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University who leads a research team to discover and develop new methods to test and treat diabetes. She loves learning, biking, and meeting new people.