Grad profile: Dreaming of a cleaner future

Kangxu He, Agriculture

- May 29, 2023

Kangxu He, left, and Dr. Haibo Niu in the lab. (Provided photos)
Kangxu He, left, and Dr. Haibo Niu in the lab. (Provided photos)

This article is part of a series focusing on the grads of the Dalhousie Class of 2023. Spring Convocation runs from May 29 to June 7 in Halifax and Truro. Read all our profiles here in one place as they are published, and for more information visit the Convocation website.

Born and raised in Shaoxing, China, Kangxu He enrolled in the Fujian Agricultural and Forestry University (FAFU) in the 2+2 program knowing her final two years as a student would be spent in Canada at Dalhousie's Faculty of Agriculture in Truro, N.S.

“As an international student, and non-native English speaker, language was the biggest challenge I faced,” explains Kangxu. “At first, I could only understand 30 per cent of the content in class, but I would spend a lot of time after class carefully reading course slides and actively communicating with professors. Therefore, they knew my situation and would slow down their speed in class.”

Not only did she survive, she thrived and went on to become a recipient of the Sears Paquet Scholarship.

Kangxu’s aspirations of becoming an environmental engineer led her to the Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) program in the Faculty of Agriculture's Department of Engineering. The IEM program is founded on the four pillars of bio-resources — technology, energy, water, and waste — and students gain the skills to create sustainable solutions to national and global resource management and food production needs.

“In my hometown, the introduced industry plants and incorrect discharge processes greatly damaged the local environment and ecosystem, and many people died because of the toxic contaminates in the water,” explains Kangxu.  “Therefore, I chose IEM as my major and dream to be an environmental engineer to improve the environment quality in my hometown.”

Developing a love of research

As an honors student, Kangxu conducted her research supervised by Dr. Haibo Niu and received a Sobey Agricultural Undergraduate Research Award. These awards are meant to provide support to outstanding students while gaining research work experience that complements their program of study.

“In this project, I developed a relatively efficient extraction system for microplastics in soils and applied this system to get the microplastic concentration and characteristic data of soils in Truro,” she explains. “The small project scale allowed me to have interactions with professors and seniors and get their help and guidance.”

Kangxu will graduate later this month but will be spending her second summer on campus completing additional research with Dr. Yunfei Jiang after receiving her second Sobey research award. Her summer will be spent evaluating the effects of different rates and application timings of enhanced efficiency nitrogen fertilizers on agronomic and environmental benefits in grain corn.

“Kangxu is a highly, self-motivated student both in the classroom and conducting research,” says Dr. Niu.  “With her countless hours dedicated in the lab evaluating different separation techniques, she has helped me to establish an analytical protocol to identify microplastics from soil that will benefit my future research.”

Kangxu will attend McGill University in the fall to study Bioresource Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Shiv Prasher.

A big warm family

Kangxe has volunteered in the Food Pantry and worked as teaching assistant and math tutor during her two years on Dal's Truro Campus. In her spare time, she has worked as a piano teacher in Truro, passing on her love for music and piano to her students.

“Looking back over the past two years at the AC, I really appreciate the help I received from my supervisor, professors and FAFU seniors,” she adds. “AC is like a big warm family and always gives me support. “


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