Zhenkang Xu oral history interview and transcript
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This recording and transcript form part of a collection of oral history interviews conducted by the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University. This collection includes audio recordings and transcripts of interviews with Asian Americans native to or living in Houston.
Zhenkang Xu was born in Shanghai, China in 1948. He spent his childhood there before going to The Great Northern Wilderness in 1968, because he volunteered himself as zhiqing to help develop the area and was among the first batch of people in the program. Subsequently, he was a zhiqing for ten years and met his wife, who was another zhiqing in the area. They had a daughter there before moving from the area with the end of the program in 1977. The examination system was reopened around this time and Zhenkang was among the first who took the university entrance exam. He went to Harbin Normal University from 1978-1982, and received his bachelors and masters degrees during this time. He continued on to Nan Kai University in Tianjin, China from 1983-1993, where he served as an associate professor, even though he did not yet have a PhD. He received an opportunity to conduct ecology research with Dr. Carolyn Burns at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He continued on to receive his PhD at Pennsylvania State, Unid States from 1993-1997. He lived in Portland, Oregon from 1995-1997 because his Pennsylvania State PhD advisor, Dr. James R. Pratt moved from Pennsylvania State to Portland State, but he still had his oral defense at Pennsylvania State and obtained his PhD from there. He also encountered a few difficulties in obtaining a green card for his daughter during this time and faced other obstacles in the United States citizenship process. He conducted research in Tufts from 1997 to 2004 in the field of shrimp genomics and came to Houston in 2004, when he took up a research position at the University of Houston (2004-2013), where he continued to work on genomics. Presently, he is a researcher in biomedical genetics at the UTMB (University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston), since 2013. He is involved in the Houston Zhiqing Association and published two stories in the book, Zhiqing: Stories from China’s Special Generation. The stories are “Our Daughter Born in the Great Northern Wilderness” and “To Slaughter a Pig”. He is also involved in a Chinese Christian church in Houston. He plans to retire next year