Life on Science Island: Myriad Experiences that have Enriched my Life

Sep 25, 2023 | By Sajid ur Rehman

When you are given the opportunity to work as a foreign expert in the prestigious Hefei Institutes of Physical Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, you take it with both hands and never look back. As a native Pakistani, who had just completed his Ph.D., the transition into a postdoctoral position at the Institute felt like a dream come true. Let’s see my story on Science Island together.

The Work Environment

A view of Cross Research building of the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science where I work. (Image by Sajid ur Rehman) 

My journey began in 2020, and three fulfilling years later, I am still captivated by the allure of science, culture, and family that I have found and built here in Science Island. Nestled beside a picturesque lake, the campus is an oasis of serenity that coexists with groundbreaking scientific research. I find myself continually inspired by the harmonious blend of natural beauty and cutting-edge scientific exploration that surrounds me. Within this remarkable setting, I am engaged in the field of Cancer Drug Delivery, employing the innovative realm of Biological Metal Organic Frameworks (bioMOFs). This emerging field is a beacon of hope in the realm of oncological treatment, holding the potential to revolutionize how we can combat cancer. Our research is specifically dedicated to pioneering novel methodologies for the precise and targeted delivery of anti-cancer drugs to malignant cells. The work we undertake here is not just a job; it's a vocation fueled by the promise of saving lives and alleviate suffering.


My workspace (Image by Sajid ur Rehman)

The collaborative atmosphere within our research community fosters an environment that nurtures creativity and innovation. Working in interdisciplinary teams, we unite our diverse expertise to unravel the intricacies of cancer drug delivery. As we strive together to decipher complex problems, we are driven by the shared mission of advancing the frontiers of science and improving the lives of those affected by cancer. These four years have been a remarkable journey, one that has allowed me to witness firsthand the profound impact that dedicated research can have on our understanding of cancer and our ability to combat it effectively.

My Life on Science Island: A Day's Odyssey

Every day is a juggle between family and work, a tightrope walk that keeps life exciting. My family is my support system, and I am blessed to have them here with me. Both of my daughters were born in Hefei, so for the Science Island is the only home they know of. My wife is also a postdoctoral researcher, making us quite the scientific duo!

One of the biggest blessings we have on Science Island is the kindergarten for my daughter. So, every morning we wake up early, drop our elder daughter Inayah for kindergarten, and then head to the office. The first thing I do upon reaching my workspace is to have a cup of tea or coffee. It’s a simple ritual but serves as a mental cue to start the workday.

 My daughter Inayah was in the kindergarten. (Image by Sajid ur Rehman) 

The majority of my day is dedicated to research: preparing drug delivery carriers, attending meetings, and analyzing data. A significant portion of my time is devoted to hands-on laboratory work, where I meticulously prepare and test drug delivery carriers. But it's not all work; the day is often punctuated by light-hearted conversations with colleagues and moments of serendipitous discovery.

Celebrating Fish Lantern Festival: Blend of Science and Art. (Image by Sajid ur Rehman) 

Interesting Anecdotes

Living on a science island offers unique experiences and opportunities. We have many sports centers here like badminton court, indoor and outdoor gyms, coffee shops, bookstores etc. Under the International Collaboration Division, we get to enjoy many get-together events cultural exchange programs. Life here is a blend of research and community service. One of the most endearing things about living here is the strong sense of camaraderie among the foreign experts who, like me, have made this place their second home.

Random stop on the way to Chaka Lake (Image by Sajid ur Rehman)

The International Collaboration Division of HFIPS holds many cultural events that not only give us the opportunity to meet in a while but also gives us an insight to different cultural aspects of China. From visiting cultural museums to seeing traditional tie and dye techniques and from celebrating moon festival together to having pot-lucks, they intrigued a confidence to understand, explore and enjoy China more. Because of this surge of cultural curiosity, I decided to travel to the far northwest side of China as it is so diverse in culture. I had travelled to a lot of cities before like Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Yantai, Harbin to name a few, but it was always through airplanes or trains. But this time we drove thousands of miles from Hefei to Xi’an to Lanzhou then all the way to Qinghai to see Chaka lake and Qinghai lake, this was an experience that I will never forget. This crazy trip is only possible from the confidence of having a happy, secure homeplace at a foreign country.


Mid Autum festival (2022) celebrated by International Collaboration Division of Science Island. (Image by Sajid ur Rehman) 

As I reflect on my time here, I am grateful for the myriad experiences that have enriched both my professional and personal life. Science Island has become more than just a place where I work; it’s a community that I am proud to be a part of and as I continue to make strides in my research and as a family man, I carry with me the richness of two diverse cultures that make me who I am today.

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A sunset view from the Science island lake. (Image by Sajid ur Rehman) 

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