From China to Canada and beyond: An inside scoop to Dr. Zhong-Ping Feng’s career, collaborations, and contributions
By Kenya Costa-Dookhan
While her twitter bio states she is a lover of nature and philosophy, Dr. Zhong-Ping Feng’s passions extend far beyond these and into the realms of teaching, researching, and leading. Dr. Feng is a tenured full professor at the University of Toronto, and basic science researcher, and was a medical doctor prior to her career in academia. Within her pre-clinical laboratory at the Department of Physiology, her research, funded by CIHR and NSERC, has focused on ion channels and their roles in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, thus identifying new drug targets for neuroprotection.
Dr. Feng first completed her MD at ZhongShan Medical College in Guangzhou followed by a residency in Ophthalmology at Peking Union Hospital at Beijing, in China. During her time as a Resident and throughout her full-time practice, she came to appreciate the disparity for cures to various eye disorders. The lack of therapeutic options available inspired her to pursue exploring new approaches through basic science research and led her to Canada to begin her training as a medical researcher. She received an MSc in Cardiovascular Pharmacology from the University of Alberta followed by a PhD and post-doctoral training in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary. One aspect which has been central to her success and the success of those surrounding her has been her commitment to mentorship. From her experiences transitioning from a mentee to mentor, she stresses the essential components of building a strong relationship between the two are enthusiasm, passion, effective communication, and collaboration, noting that many of these are also key characteristics to being a good scientist.
While collaboration within a university is powerful, what can often be more impactful is collaboration among different universities, especially on the international level. Along with joining the IMS this year, Dr. Feng has also taken on the role of Director of International Development for the IMS, with the goal in mind being to improve the international community of the IMS. She especially understands both the importance and untapped potential of initiatives aimed to increase the opportunity for international training programs and life experiences, having been both an immigrant to Canada and an international student, and receiving training across two nations: Canada and China. Through her role, she strives to build partnerships with the top universities worldwide and bring new opportunities for graduate students, post-docs, and principle investigators in the IMS to academically explore outside of Canada. The International Development program will also attract international students and faculty to the IMS; ultimately providing cultural diversity and awareness in an academic setting. Dr. Feng’s next steps are to work towards building international relationships for the IMS with partner schools, as well as potentially establishing an international exchange program. This will help in creating good scientists and mentors, globally.
Dr. Feng is an exceptional mentor, scientist, and professor. Her work thus far illustrates great passions for education, collaboration, and research. When asked how she can make a lasting impact on her field and in the scientific community, Dr. Feng again referred to the importance of prioritizing students. She described providing students with opportunities to develop their leadership, communication, and research skills as what she viewed as important building blocks for impact in the scientific field and academic community. Dr. Feng’s work, as well as future contributions, will undeniably leave this impact, as her focus lies in connecting students and educators locally here at UofT and on an international level.
IMS writer Kenya Costa-Dookhan is a 2nd year IMS MSc student. She is supervised by Dr. Margaret Hahn and her work focuses on the mechanisms of and treatment interventions for antipsychotic induced weight gain among patients with severe mental illnesses. In her spare time, Kenya loves cycling and trying new restaurants.