First U of T PhD student to join ZJU for co-supervision


A PhD student from the University of Toronto (U of T) is set to come to Zhejiang University for co-supervision of her research into childhood brain cancer. This exciting opportunity arises from a newly implemented joint PhD program between ZJU and U of T.

Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s top institution of higher education.

Charmaine Rodrigues is currently a doctoral stream student in the lab of Dr. Chi-Chung Hui, a professor in U of T’s department of molecular genetics. Rodrigues’s doctoral studies explore the role of mitochondria-associated ion channels in medulloblastoma (MB), which is considered as the most aggressive childhood brain cancer.

The study is part of the collaboration between U of T’s department of molecular genetics and ZJU’s Institute of Genetics, where ZJU professor of genetics and medicine Dr. GUAN Minxin will serve as Rodrigues’ co-supervisor. 

In November 2015, ZJU and U of T established a joint institute of genetics and genome medicine. The institute brings together 10 U of T professors, including Leah Cowen and Chi-chung Hui, and 18 ZJU professors, many of whom are jointly appointed by both universities.

“U of T has complementary strengths with ZJU in genetics and genomic medicine. Co-supervision of students with U of T faculty helps to bring these strengths together and forge a strong collaborative team leading the frontiers of basic research and translation in this area,” said Professor CHEN Xin, who oversees the joint PhD program at ZJU.

Inauguration of the Joint Institute (Nov. 23, 2015). Left to right: professors GUAN Minxin, DUAN Shumin, Trevor Young, Howard Lipshitz.

Also termed “the International Doctoral Cluster initiative” (IDC) at U of T, the joint PhD program aims at blending internationally cutting-edge research with the cultivation of top talent. Students can get two degrees if they fulfill the requirements of both universities. In the first phase, the program is expected to run for five years with five new students enrolled per year.

Chen added: “Graduate students are the engines of research and innovation. Hosting graduate students from U of T increases mutual understanding of research strengths of both sides and brings diversity and inclusion to drive scientific excellence.”

Since the first framework agreement signed in 2012, cooperation has burgeoned between ZJU and U of T. In October 2017, a presidential delegation from ZJU visited U of T and renewed the institutional framework, while inking two new partnership agreements on dentistry and education studies.