Professor Hu Zhenhu: A Respectable Teacher with Humbleness



“What’s Professor Hu like? How to start the interview? Is Professor Hu, a young teacher with numerous awards, approachable? ” These questions linger in my mind on the way to the interview of Professor Hu Zhenhu from School of Civil Engineering.

But all these doubts were instantly dispelled when Professor Hu stepped into the view. He is a charming bespectacled gentleman, somewhere in his forties. He looks quite affable, with smiles on his face.

“Morality Matters Most in Teaching”

“It’s been nine years since I worked in HFUT after I received my doctoral Degree. My love for being a teacher never wavers.” said Hu.

During the interview, Professor Hu repeatedly said “Morality matters most in teaching”.

You should be an honest and upright person before you become a teacher. A passionate person for education should withstand solitude and hardwork. That’s what Hu has said and done over the years.

He is always earnest in his work as he encourages students to innovate and tries to cultivate excellent students. He tries as many means as possible to motivate students’ initiative. “Hard work may not guarantee opportunities, but slackness keeps you from any.”

In his class “Biology of Water Treatment”, Professor Hu, aside from teaching the course, usually cites examples and his personal experiences to prove the prospects of the major and the importance of grasping professional knowledge to students. Students are highly encouraged by him in class.

Hu also puts high premium on students’ innovative capacities by encouraging students to participate in teachers’ research programs.

He insists that labs be open to undergraduates unconditionally. In the recent couple of years, over 60% of students majoring in Civil Engineering took part in innovative experiments and they experienced a notable shift in their innovative and practical abilities.

“Professor Hu is highly responsible and strict with students as is with himself. We are deeply influenced by his work ethics.” said Lu Donglei, a second-year postgraduate.

Hu Zhenhu is also the director of the Department of Municipal Engineering. As a director, he is always concerned about the development of the department, young teachers and all the students.

Yuan Shoujun, a colleague of Hu for eight years, obviously has a lot to talk about.

“To strengthen the weak academic foundation of the department, Professor Hu carefully analyzed the education background of the teachers”, Yuan said, “and formulated a medium-to-long-term plan that balances teaching and research.”

Half of the teachers in the Department are young PhD graduates. Thus, Hu encourages them to choose high-quality topics in accordance with National Nature Science Foundation of China (NSFC). He also organizes regular discussion sessions for the teachers, and invites experienced experts to give guidance.

In addition, Professor Hu founded a team on water treatment and resource utilization of waste. Over the past three years, the team has received six NSFC grants, rising as a star team in the School of Civil Engineering. The teachers in his department are also constant winners of the NSFC each year. At present, almost every young teacher in the department is in charge of one NFSC project.

To raise the quality of talents continuously, Professor Hu encourages the teachers in the department to be actively involved in education reform, and research applications.

With his leadership, the department filed five education reform applications. Chen Hui, a teacher in the department was awarded Second Prize in Education Achievement by Anhui Province.

Under his leadership, the department of Municipal Engineering passed the assessment for the undergraduate program of Water Supply and Drainage Engineering in 2013, after thoughtful preparations of related teaching materials and the construction of labs. The experts in the assessment panel spoke highly of the goals, features and methods for cultivating innovative talents set at HFUT.

Apparently, the success of the Department of Municipal Engineering is inseparable from Hu’s devotion. He applies the principles of “practice what you preach” and “due consideration to fairness” in either teaching, research or public welfare activities. “The Department of Municipal Engineering is united and dynamic. It’s worthy for other departments to learn from.” said Professor Ren Weixin, Dean of School of Civil Engineering.

“I Like to be With Students”

Busy as Hu is, he never misses a class because of academic conferences or researches. In his mind, teaching overrides his any other responsibilities.

Hu said: “I love teaching. I like to be with students.”

In his opinion, students today are quite individual and they have their own ideas. A teacher can only know what they really think by staying with them. Any tiny sparkle of their personalities should be encouraged and you should motivate them by setting an example at first.

“A teacher should treat students with kindness and fairness. You should tolerate with them and trusts them” he said, “They will appreciate your kindles and love. You have to help them grow up, and encourage them to study and live with your warmth and passion.”

Hu is quite open to his students and they are also willing to share any problems or troubles with him.

Liang Tengfang, a second-year postgraduate was troubled with the lack of a processing device once. Knowing his problem, Professor Hu suggested ways to find similar devices nearby thorough a search in the database. The student soon found a lab with the device in University of Science and Technology of China. Then Professsor Hu helped him contact the lab and the trouble was solved smoothly.

Liang was deeply moved. Liang usually discusses with Hu over some academic issues and is constantly inspired from his profound knowledge.

Professor Hu’s approachable personalities won him unanimous recognition from the students.

“If you care for the students, you will also be happy.”, as is said by Professor Hu.

He believes that making friends with students and colleagues would foster a beneficial interaction. When he encounters some difficulties, he would also receive care. Graduates who have left HFUT still keep in touch with him and send him greetings. Isn’t that moving?

Zhang Feifei is a second-year postgraduate supervised by Professor Hu. She was selected to be a member of Hu’s lab in the summer of 2010, when she just began her junior year as an undergraduate. A lot of devices in the lab were new to her. “Although he was not the coach for my innovative experiment, he was very patient to teach me how to use the devices and the safety cautions. I was very grateful to him.” said Zhang.

Professor Hu once went back to Hefei late at night from his business tour to Beijing. But he had to coach students on water treatment experiments the next morning. His teaching assistant offered to cover his experiment so Professor could have some time to rest. But Hu insisted on teaching the students himself.

Xue Min, a senior student, shared another story. Professor Hu is not a stereotypic director. He is humble and warm-hearted. He often visits students in the lab, and ask them about problems on study and life. “That truly impresses me.”

Hard Work Pays

Professor told the reporters: “We should believe in the fairness of the society. If you work hard, you will reap a harvest.” That’s what he says to students as well.

After he got his PhD degree, Hu went to the United States and Ireland for scientific researches to broaden his academic horizon. He went back to HFUT in 2009.

As China was facing a serious challenge in sludge treatment and livestock waste treatment, Professor Hu decided to focus on the resource utilization in these areas.

With a team of postgraduates, he conducted a survey on the status of livestock waste and the micro pollutants in the sludge and put forward solid-state anaerobic digestion method. He successfully developed a solar thermal solid-state anaerobic digestion technology and recycled the bio-energy within the waste. The technology was recognized as a patent. Compared with the traditional solid-state anaerobic digestion technology, the new one is two to four times faster in methane production and cuts the time for treatment by over 50%.

Professor Hu never ceased his pursuit of excellence.

He has been in charge of and took part in many scientific programs funded by NSFC, NSFC international cooperation program, Anhui Natural Science Foundation and Scientific Research Foundation of the Education Ministry for Returned Chinese Scholars. 30 of his 40 papers were included in SCI. He was granted with four national invention patents. He also authored one charter in two respective English monographs as the first author.

His devotion was fully recognized. He won numerous awards such as EU Marie Curie Fellowship, First Prize in Anhui Natural Science Award, “New Century Excellent Talent” etc..

His colleagues also accepted the interview. They all felt very proud of Hu. “He was down-to-earth and innovative. That kind of strength is becoming even greater during his teaching and research.” they said.

The love of Professor Hu is so silent, soft and deep that it is hard to be felt yet long-lasting.

His postgraduates even summarized their four impressions of Hu that remind you of the Chinese saying in Records of the Grand Historian — “Peaches and plums do not talk, yet a path is formed beneath them.”

Impression #1: Scholarly in Look

Professor Hu is charming, elegant and approachable.

He is the youngest professor in the Department of Municipal Engineering. He is always appropriate in his wear. Professor Hu likes wearing a suit and a white shirt, buttoned and tidy.

He is never condescending, even though he is a professor. He is like a teacher and a friend to us.

Impression #2: Diligent in Deeds

Professor Hu is energetic and conscientious.

The second character ‘Hu’ in his given name means “tiger” in Chinese. So we usually call him “Tiger Hu” privately. On second thought, he really looks like a tiger because he is such a workaholic.

He always comes to the lab earlier than his students. When we arrive at the lab, his car has always been parked under the parasol tree besides the lab building.

The car became his symbol. The leaves turn yellow and then green again and again, yet his car is always there. Sometimes it feels like he lives in the lab.

Professor Hu cherishes time. He always has a busy schedule during the day. Whenever he gets tired, he would rest at his sofa for a while, or inspect other offices and labs to check the operation of the devices.

He treats us as equals and never reserves his answers to us.

Impression #3: Pursuing Knowledge and Truth

Professor Hu aims high and is unswerving in his pursuit of knowledge.

He is humble and he knows that each person has his or her strength. He likes to ask for advice and teaches us that “Our major is engineering so we are no strong in chemistry as chemistry majors and not strong in biology as biology majors. We have to take as many chances as possible to learn from them.”

He also says that “You should not be frustrated by the difficult problems. Just work hard and you will find a way out.”

He is an ardent thinker and doer. According to the seniors, he could fix over half of the devices in the lab.

He told us to set up goals and strive to achieve them.

He is placing hopes on us to be future leaders in the field of municipal engineering.

Impression #4: Ambitious and Truth-Seeking

Professor Hu is ambitious and hardworking.

He works hard not to be a professor or to make a fortune, but to improve the Department of Municipal Engineering.

He has a strict budget for his academic funds, most of which are spent on purchasing lab devices and facilities and encouraging students. He is never stingy about awarding those hardworking students who makes achievements on research.

“He is warm, upright, nice and lofty.  It is his indomitable will that helps him surmount any difficulty.”

Writer: Wang Xiuqin