From the Lab to the Classroom

Westminster Chinese teacher, Ming Li, shares how science led her to the United States and Jesus Christ

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From the Lab to the Classroom

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From learning Mandarin, cooking homemade dumplings, and creating calligraphy, the excellence of Chinese class boils down to the one behind it all: Ming Li. Entering her fifth year at Westminster, Mrs. Li couldn’t be happier as a teacher.

“I love teaching. Naturally, I have a love for students. I feel God gifted me with being able to identify quickly with where, how much, and what the student needs,” said Li.

However, prior to Westminster, Li experienced and accomplished more that one would think. It all started in China, where she was born and raised. When Li reached college, she initially wanted to go to school for teaching. However, Li’s parents persuaded her to study science instead.

“In China, scientists receive high-honor and respect. My undergraduate major was chemistry, then I went on to study chemistry related physics for my PhD.”

After working in China, Li and her husband decided to strengthen their resumes by moving to North Carolina to work in world-class laboratories.

“The top labs in the world are in the United States. Anyone who wants to pursue a scientific career, you have to come to the United States to get experience in the best labs.”

Li was very successful in her research at Duke University and her work was published into the National Academy of Science. However, Li realized that jobs in the U.S. are nowhere near as secure as they are in China.

“In the United States, you can lose your job any minute. At that time, I was the only one who was working to support our family. I felt like I needed to do something to secure my career. The weakest thing was my english.”

Soon enough, Li saw an advertisement for a free English as a Second Language (ESL) class at a church that was in walking distance from the campus. This church used the Bible to teach English to foreigners. She attended for six months. Although Li originally attended the class just to learn english, she left with something much greater.

“I saw the people there. They looked so different. They were a special nice. It really attracted me. During break time, I asked them how they were so different. They all answered, ‘Just because we have Jesus’. As an unbeliever, that did not answer my question. They said, ‘Ming if you have Jesus, you will have the same thing we have’. That attracted me a lot,” said Li.

That was the beginning of Li’s walk with Christ. In the coming year, Li and her family moved to St. Louis due to her husband getting a new job. Li quit her job in North Carolina and stayed at home with her kids while looking for openings in St. Louis. However, when she received an offer, she declined.

“I prayed a lot and I talked to my pastor a lot. My husband wanted me to turn down the job at Washington University. In eight weeks, he saw a difference in me as a full-time mom. It was a huge difference for our family.”

It wasn’t until a family friend told Li about a job opening at Westminster in 2012 that she would think about working again. After many nerve wracking interviews for Li, with no original training for teaching, she got the job. While teaching is very different than conducting research in a lab, Li knows this is what she is meant to be doing.

“I can do science. However, in the lab I realized I enjoyed training people. My advisor noticed it and whenever new people would come to the lab, he would send them to me. Training people is a gift of mine,” said Li,