Researcher in Profile: Zhen Lu
Where are you from and where/what did you study? I was born in Qingdao, a beautiful beach city on the eastern coast of China and grew up in Xian, the ancient capital of more than 12 dynasties in China. I did my undergraduate study in management engineering and earned a BSc degree in 1983. I further pursued the MSc degree in management engineering at Xian Jiaotong University and was awarded the MscM Degree in 1986. In 1987 I studied for my Ph.D. in management science jointly at Edhoven University of Technology in Netherland and Xian Jiaotong University in China. I was awarded Ph.D. Degree in 1991.
Why did you choose tourism and hospitality and why TRSM? I didn’t choose tourism and hospitality initially. However, by chance I was charged to develop a hotel and tourism management program and later became the first director of the hospitality and tourism management department at Xian Jiaotong University when the tourism industry was booming in Xian and China. I also had the chance to be the general manager of a resort hotel in China in the 1990’s.
How did you become a researcher? I didn’t have a concrete idea of how to conduct social science research until I was studying for my Ph.D. in Holland. I had abundant access to social science methodology books and had the opportunity to attend academic conferences. I learned most from my Ph.D. advisor when I worked with him as a research assistant.
Why is research in hospitality and tourism important? This hospitality and tourism industry has tremendous influence on the economy, societies, individuals and natural environment. Research in this broad area will help us to identify key issues and understand unknown phenomena. Research findings not only contribute to the theories but more importantly will, for example, help governments to better formulate policies and the industry to improve efficiency and service quality.
What are you researching right now? My most recent study is investigating why new Canadian or non-Canadian students choose hospitality and tourism programs as their subject of study and what their expectations are regarding the program curriculum and support from universities. This is funded by Royal Bank, where Prof. Griffin is also a co-investigator. Another project I am currently working on is studying how Chinatown with its rich culture, heritage and unique ethnic food contributes to tourism in Toronto.
What do you think is the most controversial topic in hospitality and tourism right now? Currently how hospitality organizations can continually provide genuine hospitality while protecting guests from terrorism and other crimes. This is probably one of the most important and controversial topics.
What does the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Research mean to you? It is a hub for generating innovative ideas and a source of research support for faculty and students.
How can you get students engaged in hospitality and tourism research? I integrate applied research into course projects, in which they need to identify problems from a real company, conduct literature review, design research methods and apply theories learned from in-class lectures and literature review in data collection and analysis. Last but not least, they must give suggestions to the organization investigated. I also hire undergraduate students as research assistants when it is possible.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a career in research, what would it be? To be a researcher, especially in social science, is quite challenging. My advice is that if you choose to be a researcher, you need to be perseverant.
Tell us something about you that no one at Ryerson knows? I regularly go to a French meet-up group to practice oral French.
What are your major interests outside of HTMResearch? In my leisure time, I like to walk my dog, learn new languages, watching action movies and cooking.
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