Setting off to the Future

Hello everyone,

My name is Yunfeng Zhao, and you can also call me Jack. I will work in the Institute of Global Food Safety (IGFS) at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom, on the FoodSmartphone project “Novel Image Analysis Software” as the Early Stage Researcher (ESR) 5. In the past 4 months, I have encountered a long visa process similar to the situation that mentioned by the ESR 9, Sahl, in his previous blog. Therefore, I have been preparing for the upcoming PhD study in my hometown Hangzhou, a beautiful city lying in the southeast coast of China, during this period of waiting. I can’t wait to join the two other ESRs at Queen’s University, Jordi and Javier, hopefully in early September. I would like to begin my very first blog with an introduction of myself, a narration of my story in Netherlands and, a brief description of Hangzhou.

My interest in Computer and Biological Science started in my boyhood. I was immersed in the environment of bio-experiments when I was young. I got plenty of chances to observe bio-lab operations after school. It was also that time that I first got in touch with computers. At that time, computers were expensive but powerful tools for lab data handling. Since then, my passion about exploring the digital world have emerged. I enrolled in the “Sino-America 1+2+1 Dual Degree” program to transfer to the United States for two years in my undergraduate study. Finally I gained a bachelor degree of engineering in Network Engineering in China and that of science degree in Computer Science in the United States within four years of study. It was the two years transferring experience in the United States that made me understand how culture and background diversity could inspire innovations. Later, instead of pursuing a master degree, I joined an internet based startup company, located in Hangzhou, being a backend software engineer for half a year and a 3D front-end software engineer for more than 3 years until the company has grown to a size of more than 500 employees. I have also involved in projects related to smartphone based application, 3D printing, and computer games in my spare time. As my knowledge in computer science grow, I have been strongly attracted by image analysis. As Banko and Brill once said, “It’s not who has the best algorithm that wins. It’s who has the most data”, which emphasized the importance of the data. Image analysis can be served as an efficient tool to carry out image based data mining, which once can only be done by experts but anyone with a smartphone today. I will go deep into details about image analysis and cloud based service implementations in the future blogs.

This summer, 10 ESRs (Sahl was not there because of visa delay) of the Foodsmartphone project along with about 20 other scholars from all over the world with different professional background got together at Wageningen University, Netherlands to attend the first Foodsmartphone summer school. Thanks to the summer school, my horizon of biological, chemistry and computer science has been broadened once again, and I got the opportunity to take a trip with my wife in the beautiful Netherlands.

A view of Wageningen University
Attending the first summer school in Wageningen

My very first impression on Netherlands was  its super efficient public systems. A OV-chipcard in hand could take you around the Netherlands by almost all public transportations such as trains, buses, metros, and boats. The transportation junctions are also well designed to be as convenient and efficient as possible.

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A city view of Amsterdam
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A night view of the canals in Amsterdam

We found an environment friendly public system in some supermarkets, which I called the bottle recycling system. One can put empty bottles into auto-recycling machines and get decent amount of paybacks, which is  a good way to help homeless people.

There is a very interesting custom in NL, students who past exams will hang a schoolbag on top of their front doors. My question had been raised: will it be stressful that  someone did not pass the exams since everyone will know it because of this custom?

The schoolbag custom

We also enjoyed rich kinds of architectures in NL. Not like tedious office buildings in most cities, modern building designs in NL are almost with no repetition. How is that possible? Dutch people must be very creative! My wife and I were lucky enough to catch up with the Veteran’s Parade and encountered the King and the Prime Minister of Netherlands in Hague. We were also impressed by busy but ordered morning market at downtown Wageningen and gorgeous historical architectures such as windmills, old churches and train stations as we traveled.

Last but not least, I would like to thank all enthusiastic people who gave us guide and help during our stay in NL.

The travel highlights in Netherlands, made by my wife😊

My hometown, also the city that I am currently living in, is Hangzhou. It serves as the national capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) in the history, and it is now the capital of the Zhejiang Province located in southeast China. The city is mountainous compared to the landscape in Netherlands. The temperature can reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in summer and below 0 in winter with a high humidity all year round (I heard Belfast is similar). The city is full of attractions and among which, the West Lake is the most famous one. It is located in the downtown city and one can enjoy fantastic lake/mountain scenery, musical fountain, delicious Chinese food, and countless historical attractions by the lake. Marco Polo, the Venetian merchant traveler, once wrote “it is without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world” after visiting Hangzhou many times in the late 13th century.

west lake night
The West Lake at dusk
ancient land mark
An attraction spot in Hangzhou

Finally, thanks to my supervisor, Dr. Zhou, and all the colleagues who gave me help and instructions in the past 4 months. Although delayed by UK Visa process, I am still in the right track towards the goal of achieving promising on-site food safety analysis system and cannot wait to join the team next week.


All the best,


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