Yayu Li grew up in a small village in rural China. The school in her village closed in 2002 due to a declining population and lack of funding. With limited employment opportunities, many young people had left for jobs in cities. Having to travel to neighboring villages for school and living in a dorm by age 12 to attend middle school, Li realized the value of education.
In 2008, Li started college. Through scholarships and part-time jobs, she supported her studies and went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Arriving at UConn in 2015, Li is now a PhD student in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She describes coming to UConn as the moment the “impossible became possible.” Here is what she said in an interview:
Where did you study as an undergraduate?
I earned my bachelor’s degree from Huazhong Agriculture University, Wuhan, China.
What was your major?
My major was environmental science with an emphasis in soil science. I also completed a master’s degree program at Huazhong in environmental science.
Why did you decide to go to graduate school?
I chose environmental science as my major because I love nature. As an undergraduate, I applied to a graduate research group and worked as a research assistant during my junior and senior years in order to learn more about the field. I had opportunities to do lab work with graduate students, attend academic seminars and discuss scientific problems with advisors. I was impressed by how dedicated the advisors and graduate students were to get precise measurements and accurate results from experiments. They wanted to find truth and reality. I wanted to be one of them and explore the unknown. Therefore, I decided to apply for graduate school. (more…)