ONLINE EXCLUSSIVE: Chemistry and Faith: Joshua Zhu

Janelle Cammenga—Staff Writer

Professor Joshua Zhu wanted a change.

After gaining a secular education and living in that context for years, he knew what he wanted to do.

“I want to integrate my faith with my future career,” he said.

This led to his move to work as a Dordt chemistry professor.

Zhu lives in Sioux Center with his wife and two children, but he grew up in the Hebei province of China, in Yi Xian.

As a high schooler, he liked chemistry and scored well on that section of his pre-college exam, leading him to study the subject in college.

It was at Lanzhou University that he encountered Christianity for the first time. One of his best friends was a believer, but didn’t say much about the faith. Zhu asked to come with him to church to see what it was about.

Later, when he enrolled in Georgia State University for graduate school, he met two other Christians. They invited him to their Bible study group.

“I wasn’t sure of their purpose,” he said. “You must be cautious of someone who treats you very well.”

Learning more about their faith awakened loads of questions in his mind. As he kept meeting with them, he saw how the group interacted with one other. It was something different from what he saw in the secular world.

“There is something behind that,” he thought at the time. After a lot of questioning and arguing, he accepted Christ.

“Even after conversion, I still have questions,” he said. “But after a long time, I can get some answers from the Bible and my own understanding.”

In his fifth year at Georgia State, Zhu decided he wanted to do more than just work in chemistry after graduation. He wanted to find a way to involve his faith in the process.

“Teaching is a good medium to connect with people,” he said. “You can inspire them and encourage them to live a Christ-centered life.”

After a search through the CCCU website, Zhu decided to apply to teach chemistry at Dordt.

Organic chemistry is his area of expertise; he treats it as a tool to solve biochemical problems. He’s most interested in using chemical processes to diagnose diseases through analysis.

He wants research to be part of his teaching experience. This is a big part of his Chemistry 323 class, where students are doing real work that can be used for future research.

He wants his students to learn more than just how to execute a lab well.

“They need to know why they’re doing it,” he said.

But being a typical educator is not his long-term goal.

“In the far future, I might want to be a missionary for education, maybe in China, maybe somewhere else,” Zhu said.

He sees witnessing in China as completely different from witnessing in America.

“In America, most people have already heard,” he said. “But a lot of people in China have never heard about Christians. It’s like a blank paper. [But] already in their mind and heart, they think there’s something out there.”

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