Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in China, in the southwestern city called GuiYang, meaning expensive sun, implying a place that has more rain than shine, quite the opposite of Lethbridge. After high school, I went to a university in Guangzhou, a Cantonese-speaking city. It was there that I learned to speak Cantonese, not knowing years later this language skill would give me the capacity to become an important bridge between the Cantonese-speaking and Mandarin-speaking communities in Lethbridge. 

I got my BSc in chemistry in 1983 and then an MSc in bioinorganic chemistry in 1986. After that, I stayed at the same university as an instructor for three years. Then I got an opportunity to study for my PhD at the University of Toronto. In 1993 I got my PhD in organometallic chemistry. Soon after that, I started a postdoctoral position in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, just across the street from the chemistry department, working on wastewater treatment projects for the Consortium of Pulp and Paper companies led by the Pulp and Paper Centre at U of Toronto. During that time I decided that I wanted to inspire more girls to go into STEM. So I got my BEd from York University and started teaching science and technology in high schools in Ontario. In 1996 I met my husband Amir who was working on his PhD in math at the U of Toronto. We got married and moved to Montreal in 1997 for his term position at Concordia University. Our first daughter was born in Montreal. I transferred my teaching certificate to Quebec and started teaching math and science at the Selwyn House School until Amir got his position at ULethbridge in 2000.

How long have you been at ULethbridge and what do you do here?
I came to ULethbridge in 2000 as the spouse of Amir Akbary, who was hired by the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science. Since I have a PhD and rich teaching experience, I started working for the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as a sessional instructor. Soon after that, I was hired as an APO by the Office of Research Services to initiate the building of a partnership with government, industry and academia on water research in southern Alberta. I was fortunate to have worked with many great people in the early stages of water research initiatives and the funding application for the water building. I came up with the acronym WISE: Water Institute for Semi-arid Ecosystems. I am happy that it was adopted and is still in use.

In 2003 I was invited to step in for a chemistry professor who moved away. That started my 21-year teaching career at the University. Although there have been ups and downs, I consider myself very lucky. I have taught thousands of students and worked with many great colleagues. Together with my husband, we brought up two beautiful daughters. Lethbridge is the best place I have lived, period.

What's the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the freedom I have to tailor and design my courses. I am constantly renovating my courses in content and delivery styles to give my students a pleasant and productive learning experience while taking into account their financial needs and their job market needs. For example, since 2009 I have been offering the Chemistry for the Life Sciences I and II courses (Chem1110 and Chem2120) designed for students not majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. I wrote the textbooks and the lab manuals so that the students only need to pay printing costs. With the help of the Teaching Centre and my teaching assistants, I also built Moodle question banks to replace commercial homework systems. These efforts have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in textbook costs for my students over the past 15 years. In spring 2024 I incorporated 3D printing into the laboratory experience in Chem2120 which was well received by the students. I am constantly learning and trying to meet the needs of my students — this is also the best part of my job.  

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Outside of work, I devote myself to volunteer work in the community, especially in the aspects of cultural education, exchange and enrichment. I was one of the founders of the Lethbridge Chinese Cultural Dance Club. Since 2017, our dance team has performed in all major events in Lethbridge. You can see our dances at the Asian Heritage Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, Canada Day and Heritage Day Celebrations, to name a few. We also performed for the University of Lethbridge Student Union’s Culture Week event. When I am not dancing or volunteering, I enjoy going to movies, having good meals and playing cards with my friends.