Professor of Mathematical and Computer SciencesJoined USJ: 2004
Two Careers, Two Nations
Hong Zhou is enjoying his second career and second country. A native of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou earned his initial university degree in Biology and was in the midst of a solid career as a cancer researcher when he decided in 1996 that to progress further he needed to come to America. He was drawn by the superior technology and the dedication to scientific discovery, which he shared. Shortly after arriving, he began to use computers extensively to advance his scientific research, and quickly recognized the immense power computers possessed to further exploration. So much so that he earned advanced degrees in information technology, which led to his first full time faculty position at USJ. Despite having “never touched a computer” in China, he was now opening eyes to their potential in USJ’s computer science classrooms.
Today, his interests and expertise have forged a distinctive path — a specialty in bioinformatics, which integrate his two complementary careers. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that develops and improves methods for storing, retrieving, organizing, and analyzing biological data, and develops software tools to generate useful biological knowledge. “In the past, biology was solely bench work,” Zhou points out. “Now we can use computers for mathematical modeling, computation, and statistical analysis, which can lead to scientific discoveries.”
Zhou integrates his research into some USJ special topics courses, offering students first-hand examples of how computers can impact their careers. Working with students who take his classes as part of a minor or concentration, as well as those filling a core requirement, can be challenging, but he enjoys working with students of differing backgrounds and ability, helping them to explore their own potential. Zhou encourages students to begin using their newly developed computer proficiency, stressing their skills “can be applied right away.” Often, after learning a particular aspect, students respond with “I wish I knew that earlier — I could have used those skills in other courses.”
Because of the fast pace of technological change, the computer science curriculum “has been revised a couple of times already,” and new courses have been developed to attract students and remain up-to-date. Zhou recently co-authored a book chapter on bioinformatics, and maintains a strong interest in the fast-growing field. As USJ launches its new Public Health major, Zhou is developing a new course in public health informatics, bringing his stellar background and considerable proficiency to bear on a new academic area. Zhou has also done consulting work with a biotech company, and has extended his research in bioinformatics as resources have been available. Reflecting on his career change and choice to live in the U.S., Zhou is satisfied with both decisions — and relishes sharing his know-how and intellectual curiosity with students.
B.S., Wuhan University, Peoples Republic of China
M.S., Xiamen University, People’s Republic of China
M.S., The University of Southern Mississippi
Ph.D., The University of Southern Mississippi