Summer 2020

Special delivery

Courtesy Frank Bates

In March 2020, when face masks were in short supply in the United States, Frank Bates, a U of M Regents professor of chemical engineering, heard from former postdoctoral fellow Jiuyang Zhang. The two hadn’t been in touch since 2017, when Zhang returned to his native China after spending two years with Bates’ group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

“Zhang knew COVID-19 was spreading and asked about the situation in Minnesota,” says Bates, who was Zhang’s advisor. “He offered to send face masks at a time when shipping goods from China was difficult.”

A few days later, FedEx delivered 2,000 non-N95 masks to Bates’ home, which Bates took to a U of M drop-off site. “Zhang’s gift represented a sizable portion of the almost 9,000 face masks the U had collected at that point, when need was dire,” Bates says. The masks were distributed to U of M health care facilities.

Zhang’s reasons for giving were simple. He’d had a wonderful experience at the University and wanted to help Minnesotans. “It’s a sterling example of how people operate on a local scale, one that transcends geopolitical boundaries,” Bates says.