Professor who escaped life of drudgery wins Asian award

A 51-year-old Chinese scientist who fought her way up from the assembly line of a bus factory to become a respected professor at a British university last night won the Outstanding Asian Woman of Achievement Award.

Xiangqian Jiang ­ known as Jane in the UK ­ was taken out of school aged 15 and sent to work as a chassis assembly worker during the cultural revolution in China. She said she resigned herself to the mindless graft for two decades but never gave up on her ambition to become a scientist.

She taught herself at night school, studying for up to five hours every evening to become proficient in engineering, maths and science until she was finally able to go to university. "I had a strong scientific curiosity and I was determined to go to university so that I could contribute more to society," she explained.

After finishing her PhD at the age of 40 in China, she was persuaded to move to Britain in 1995 to work as a research scientist at Birmingham University, and later Huddersfield.

At the same time, she brought up her daughter, who is now a 24-year-old Cambridge graduate and biochemist. She is thought to be the first woman from the Chinese mainland to become a full professor in Britain in any subject.

Based at Huddersfield University's Centre for Precision Technologies, she researches topics ranging from the depth of wrinkles in human skin for the beauty industry, to how to improve the working life of artificial hip joints.

The Asian Women of Achievement Awards, held at the Park Lane Hilton in London, recognised the talents of women whose work in eight categories, including science, business, arts and the humanitarian sector, has made a significant impact in the UK.

Chief Inspector Parm Sandhu, of Sikh origin, the highest ranking Asian woman in the Metropolitan Police, was presented with the Public Sector Award for playing a high-profile role in reassuring communities after the 7 July bombings in London last year. The 42-year-old, who brought up her two sons with the help of her extended family, has worked in the Met's department for counterterrorism since the July bombings. Out of a total of 492 chief inspectors, 38 are women and she is the only Asian.

"There were a lot of negative stereotypes after 7/7 and people began to look at Asians in a different way," she said. "But when they saw a police officer who was Asian, it reinforced the message that it was not about colour but about people working together after the atrocities last year."

When she joined the force in 1989, aged 24, it was "just white men" . She was once told by a senior officer, who has since left, that she would have to choose between motherhood and police work. "He told me: 'You have to make a choice between being a mother and being a police officer. The two don't go together.' That kind of comment would not be allowed to go unchecked today," she said.

Chief Inspector Sandhu said it was now "a changing environment", but still: "Often I will go to senior meetings and I will still be the only woman and the only black woman."

Winners ranged from Shaheen Khan, the actress who played a Punjabi mother in the film Bend it Like Beckham, to Humerah Khan and Sumerah Ahmad, co-founders of Club Asia radio station, and Professor Nazneen Rahman, a researcher in childhood cancers.



Professor Xiangqian Jiang: Academic who escaped oppression under Mao's cultural revolution.


Chief Inspector Parm Sandhu: Met's highest-ranking Asian woman.


Humerah Khan and Sumerah Ahmad: The sisters co-founded Club Asia.


Damini Kumar: In 1999, the 29-year-old invented the world's first non-drip teapot.


Fareena Alam: Managing editor of Muslim magazine Q-News.


Shaheen Khan: The actress who played a mother in the film Bend it Like Beckham.


Professor Nazneen Rahman: Researcher in childhood cancers, 38.


Anila Wickramasinghe: Founder of ReOrient Legal, which provides Shariah consultancy.


Celine Samarasinhe: Founder of two community nursing services in Sri Lanka.

Aysin Yilmaz: Turkish Philanthropic Association.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas