On the afternoon of June 23rd, the graduation ceremony of 2022 international students was held at Hubei University. Muhammad Sultan Irshad, a young man from Pakistan, was awarded the honor of outstanding graduate. His parents were so excited that they appeared online and gave their best wishes to their son.
Sultan has been a doctoral program student in the School of Materials Science and Engineering from September 2019 to June 2022, focusing on the design and preparation of multifunctional composite materials and their application research in solar steam and energy conversion. He is a student with outstanding academic performance and has published six SCI papers as the first author during his study at Hubei University.
He is the emissary of China-Pakistan exchanges, and attempts to contributing to the internationalization of Hubei University. He loves cooking, poetry, literature and art, etc., and relaxes and improves himself in a wide range of hobbies.
A Journey from the Countryside to China as A Result of Great Efforts
Sultan was born in a remote village in Pakistan. His family’s income was around the subsistence level. His parents were not educated and rarely had any work opportunities. As a result, Sultan and his siblings did not have many educational opportunities and it was difficult for them to receive higher education. Still, Sultan's parents had a strong desire to give their seven children the best education. With the high expectations of his parents, Sultan earned a master's degree in physics from the Department of Physics at COMSAT University in his hometown, Islamabad, through unremitting efforts. During the five years of undergraduate and master's studies in Pakistan, Sultan insisted on working while studying and also taught in a high school. After coming to China, he also supports his family with the scholarship he gets.
"I have always dreamed of continuing my higher education in an excellent university and was fortunate to come to China". Through the recommendation of a student who was studying his master's degree at the time, Sultan decided to apply for Hubei University to pursue a doctor's degree. He contacted his supervisor, Professor Wang Xianbao and expressed his interest in Wang’s research. "My supervisor was very kind. During the interview, he suggested that I could apply for the Chinese Government Scholarship. He also helped me contact the relevant departments of the university to go through the application procedures." Sultan further stated how he was deeply moved by the assistance and care his supervisor showed during the process which determined his choice to study at Hubei University. In July 2019, the efforts paid off, Sultan was admitted into Hubei University.
Campus Life as a Researcher
In his first year of study at Hubei University, Sultan felt that his basic professional knowledge and experimental skills were limited, "I didn't know much about the research projects in the lab" he said. But his supervisor, Wang Xianbao, always encouraged him to focus on the key scientific issues in his research and try to solve these problems with innovative experiments. Sultan worked hard and became an expert in this field. Reading research articles, staying in the lab till the night, discussing his paper with the supervisor and revising it countless times with his supervisor became his daily routine during his study.
After the intensive research, Sultan finally achieved a breakthrough in solving the problem of water shortage. "My research project is to build a system that can use solar energy to carry out sea water purification and generate electricity at the same time." In his research project, Sultan has developed a multi-purpose water evaporation system that could achieve purposes such as sea water purification, sewage treatment, power generation, etc. At the same time, in order to figure out salt accumulation in the water membrane, Sultan developed a series of experimental models to avoid salt accumulation. Related articles have been published in prominent SCI journals such as Carbon (impact factor 9.59) and Environmental Science Nano (impact factors 8.01).
Sultan said that his academic achievements today were due to the patience, care and attentiveness of his supervisor who taught him how to do scientific research and write excellent academic papers. His supervisor treated Sultan as his own son. At the beginning of 2020, Sultan suddenly had a stomach pain. At the time, the epidemic was severe and thus traffic in the city was restricted. It was his supervisor who contacted the ambulance with the help of the community, accompanied him to the hospital in a protective suit and took care of him with meticulous care.
When it came to his team, Sultan had a lot to say." The members of our team always help each other and I have learned a lot.” When Sultan began to think about how he could publish high-quality papers and achieve more research results, three senior Chinese students in related fields inspired him. “I was keenly observing their experiments, which gave me new ideas.” Sultan said that they had published high-quality papers, which was also a source of motivation for him, and he promised to reach their standards.
Likewise, Sultan did his best to help the team members. In March 2021, he helped Naila Arshad, a Pakistani student, who came to Hubei University as an exchange student, and worked with Professor Wang Xianbao's scientific research team to conduct the research of light and heat conversion technology for sea water desalination and energy utilization. During Naila's exchange study at Hubei University, Sultan provided guidance on her research direction, experimental design and thesis writing.
“Thanks to Hubei University and all the teachers. Here, we received high-quality education. This experience brought me, a PhD graduate, closer to the real world and laid a solid foundation for my future”. At the graduation ceremony of international students, Sultan spoke with emotion as the representative of outstanding graduates.
Commitment to Telling the Stories Well about China and Hubei University
At the beginning of 2020, Sultan gave up his plan to go home for the winter vacation and chose to stay in Wuhan and stood firmly with Chinese to fight against the epidemic. "As Pakistani students, we have a soft spot for China. We have always witnessed the great relationship between China and Pakistan." His father also called and encouraged him to stay in Wuhan. "For me, China is my second home." He thanked Hubei University for making every effort to provide meticulous care for international students. In an interview by the China Daily and Hubei Daily, he said “China protects me like my motherland and brings me the warmth of home".
Because of this, he took the initiative to promote Hubei University, Wuhan and China to Pakistani universities and students. He also actively facilitated the establishment of friendly relations between Pakistani universities and Hubei University and enhanced the international influence of Hubei University. With his help, 5 Pakistani universities have established cooperative relations with Hubei University in 2022, and more than 30 Pakistani students have submitted applications to study at Hubei University.
After graduation, Sultan plans to go to Shenzhen University for post-doctoral study. "After completing my research work at Shenzhen University, I plan to return to Hubei University, which is my favorite alma mater." Sultan said.