Amazing Students

Haibao Tang

Doctoral candidate Haibao Tang learned about UGA from another Chinese student who enrolled in the plant biology program a year ahead of him. After considering the caliber of the faculty in the Plant Biology Department and the weather in Athens, he decided to enroll too. Since that time, Haibao has worked on numerous projects in the Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory, managed by his major professor Andrew Paterson. From this work, he has made numerous research findings which he has presented at conferences and submitted to academic journals. In fact, he has been first author of an article published in Science and co-author of a paper published in Nature. After graduation, Haibao plans to become a research professor at a major university.


Shanghai, China

High School:

Jincai High School

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in plant biology

Other degrees:

B.S. Biological Sciences, Fudan University, China

Expected graduation:

Fall 2009

University highlights, achievements and awards:

In my graduate research work, I made several discoveries by comparing the content and order of genes among various plant species. This work helps us to understand how plant genomes evolve. During my four years at UGA, I have published five papers in prestigious scientific journals, including a first-authored Science paper and a co-authored Nature paper. I have also attended several scientific meetings to present my original research findings.

Current Employment:

I am supported on an assistantship in the Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory at UGA, under the advisement of Andrew Paterson. The lab is located on the second floor of Applied Genetics Technology Center on Riverbend Road. For my graduate study, I have been working on data analysis through computer programming, and getting my hands full growing several varieties of sorghum crops in the greenhouse. The sorghum project aimed to identify a gene responsible for seed dispersal which would generate important applications in crop domestication.

I chose to attend UGA because...

...the weather in Athens is very similar to my hometown, Shanghai. And before I came to UGA, I had contacts with a Chinese student, Phill Lin, who enrolled the same graduate program at UGA just a year ahead of me. Phill said that UGA is really a nice place to stay! Also, UGA has a very strong plant biology graduate program with many esteemed faculty members. After I arrived in Athens, it soon became obvious that I made a wise choice.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

...working out at the Ramsey Center and browsing through the books and recent journal issues in the Science Library.

When I have free time, I like...

...going to aquariums and museums, playing computer games and cooking out with my friends in parks.

The craziest thing I've done is...

...stay up all night playing computer games in high school and then attend a sporting match the following morning. I attended a boarding school in China with a very strict “lights out” policy. During my senior year, however, computer games were very popular, and several friends and I became quite attracted to them. The night before the competition, four of us decided to stay awake all night to play games. After the lights went out, we climbed over the school fence and went to a LAN gaming center for the entire night. The next day—when we arrived at school around 7 a.m.—all of us were red-eyed and stinky, but we had to participate in the competition! Three us did not win anything, but one friend did manage to get second place in the 1500m race after 30 sleepless hours!

My favorite place to study is...

...Cups Coffee Café on Barnett Shoals Road. I love this place because they have delicious cakes and a wide variety of teas. The artwork on the walls generate a gallery-like atmosphere. Often, I could quickly focus on my work after only a few sips of my tea. I also enjoy a relaxing afternoon kicking back at Cups chatting with friends.

My favorite professor is...

...Michael Arnold in the genetics department and my advisor Andrew Paterson in plant biology department. In Dr. Arnold’s graduate course, “Speciation,” I particularly enjoyed his teaching style. He would normally ask us to read assigned papers before classes and come up with a few questions for him to address. During the class, he would usually hold a coffee mug and casually sit on the front desk while taking our questions, yet his answers were anything but casual. He answered most of the questions so well! If it were not for his class, I probably would never read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, but I learned a lot by reading it for his class. Dr. Paterson is my graduate advisor and a great mentor to me. He is one of the smartest people I’ve met, with broad knowledge and deep understanding of how to conduct scientific research. He has guided me throughout my four years at UGA by encouraging and facilitating my novel ideas.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with... beloved grandfather Xue-cai Tang, who passed away in 2003—one year before I came to the U.S. He taught me Chinese calligraphy and chess when I was young. One summer day in 2003, he came to my college dormitory without prior notice, saying that he would like to see the campus. It was a sizzling hot afternoon, and I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted. So, I showed him around the campus. He was talking and laughing as always, but I noticed that he was sweating and panting rather heavily. What I didn’t realize was that afternoon was the last time I would see him alive. He died of lung cancer one week later. If I could have one more afternoon with him, I would show him around UGA’s campus, talking and laughing the entire time.

If I knew I could not fail, I would... exactly the same things that I currently do. I already know that I could not possibly fail if I am really determined and always stay focused.

After graduation, I plan to...

...become scientist at a research university. I have always enjoyed research, and I have a strong curiosity about the biological world. In particular, I wish to have a lab of my own to study the morphology of plant leaves, particularly how different shapes, margins and patterns are genetically determined and evolved. To me, it is fascinating to probe into the unknowns.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

...watching a football game between Georgia and Georgia Tech with my friend Bret, who was an undergrad studying marketing at UGA. It was cold and drizzling that day, but the game was really exciting and Bulldogs finally won 19-13. That was my first year in the U.S. and my first-ever football game. I learned the rules of American football in that game! Sanford is still the largest stadium I have ever been to by far.

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