Mathematics Professor Weiqing Gu was the first PhD student from Mainland China at U Penn. This post describes the wonderful mentoring Professor Gu has received from mathematician and grandmother, Professor Fan Chung Graham. Professor Gu remembers:
When I was a graduate student and Professor Fan Chung Graham came to U Penn from Bell Labs to interview for a full professorship, I was fortunate to have a chance to host her. When I talked to her it was eye opening. She was one of the best students when she graduated from U Penn. As a candidate, she gave a very wonderful talk about graph theory that amazingly also used ideas from differential geometry. Later I learned she had worked with Fields medalist, Prof Shing-Tung Yau. Professor Fan Chung Graham’s talk broadened my perspective and showed me that graph theory can relate to geometric ideas such as page rank (an idea used by Google).
She has also been a very strong role model for women. One thing I remember clearly is that she said in this world there are many opportunities like trains passing by. Only when you feel confident and are prepared will you be able to catch them. Since I was doing well in graduate school, she told me to have confidence. Before I met her I was so scared to give presentations, but she taught me that you have to do it. She told me not to be shy and to get out to give research talks. She even said that if it is necessary, you have to jump on the table and say why your research result is important! If you don’t give talks, you can’t catch the opportunities.
Later she invited me to her home for soup. She taught me how to cleverly make quick delicious food so that I could save time and do more research. Before this, I made fish cakes and dumplings by hand from scratch. She taught me to buy ready-made frozen ones to save time to do more research!
We have maintained a relationship for a long time; we get together at meetings to to discuss research and life. I have been lucky to have her as my mentor.