Returnee talents flock to USTC
University impresses as magnet for young researchers with international experience, Zhu Lixin reports.
In recent years, reports about Pan Jianwei and his team have often been seen on the front pages, especially since the launch of the world’s first quantum experiment satellite in August.
Being a top physicist from the University of Science and Technology of China and chief scientist for the quantum satellite project, Pan has won many awards and honors since he returned from Austria’s University of Vienna to his alma mater USTC in 2001.
Born in 1970, Pan was often referred to as the youngest somebody to have achieved something.
In 2011, Pan became the youngest member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the country’s top scientific body, and the country’s youngest laureate of the top prize of the State Natural Science Award earlier this year.
Most of the other members in Pan’s team are also very young, with an average age of less than 40.
Behind the honors were the numerous breakthroughs he has achieved with his team, which he has built since 2001, when he returned to USTC through CAS’ overseas talent recruitment plan.
“The university has benefi a lot from drawing in international talent in recent years,” said Dou Xiankang, vice-president of USTC, before he left for the United States for recruiting events taking place next week.
Pan is just one of the hundreds of bright minds the university has attracted from abroad in recent years, thanks to its multiple talent recruitment plans, varying from the university-level to the state-level.
By the end of 2008, the country’s top authorities initiated the Recruitment Program of Global Experts, known as the Thousand Talents Plan, to bring in top overseas talents to the Chinese mainland over the following five to 10 years.
Pan was listed as one of the first batch of talents for this plan in 2008.
Among the talents the university has attracted in recent years, 44 people have been listed in the Thousand Talents Plan.
When studying and working in Austria, Pan, who is now the standing vice president of USTC, told the famous Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger, his PhD adviser, that he dreamed of building a worldleading lab in China that is similar to Zeilinger’s .
Based on their scientific strengths, Pan’s team, which are often called the “Dream Team” by media, have gained a lot of support from the university, CAS and the government.
The lab that Pan built from scratch in USTC since 2001 is now world-leading in the field of quantum science and technology.
Last month, CAS and the Anhui provincial government reached an agreement to build a national laboratory for quantum information, in which Pan’s team is expected to play a leading role.
The university currently houses two national labs - the National Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory and the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale — the only university in the country to have more than one national laboratory, the highest level among all types of labs in the country.
The facility has since become a magnet for young scientists, attracting dozens of the country’s most prominent quantum physicists. One of these individuals is Lu Chaoyang, who was singled out by the science journal Nature in June as one of the top-10 rising stars in China’s science sector.
Lu followed a similar education a path to that of Pan. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees of USTC before moving overseas for his PhD study.
From 2008 to 2011, Lu had been studying and working in the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and published a paper in Nature in 2010 as the lead author. He returned to USTC in 2011.
The central authorities launched the High-level Overseas Young Talents Recruitment Plan in 2011, aimed at introducing 2,000 researchers and scientists aged around 35 from 2011 to 2015, also brought large numbers of young Chinese talent back from abroad.
This contributed to an increase in young academic leaders.
“It was Pan who encouraged Lu to do his PhD work at the University of Cambridge and convinced him to return to China with the promise that the government is investing heavily in quantum information technologies, and that bright young physicists could focus on research rather than securing funding,” stated a report in Nature, citing Lu.
Today, 146 of the talents attracted by USTC have been listed in the Thousand Young Talents Plan.
The university also enjoys 116 winners of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, a funding program to support the country’s most prominent young scientists, and 44 members of the CAS, or the county’s top science body.
Among the nearly 2,000 teachers and researchers, 83 percent of them have PhD degrees, while about 70 percent are younger than 45 years old, according to the university’s human resources department.
Students from home and abroad enjoy discussion at USTC.
China is investing heavily in quantum information technologies, so that bright young physicists can focus on research rather than securing funding. Lu Chaoyang, aquantum physicistwhoreturnedto USTCin2011fromtheUniversity USTC supported me by funding my year-long overseas experience at the University of Manchester by collaborating with Andre Geim, laureate of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. The opportunity was a turning point for my academic career, as it broadened my perspectives on research. Wu Heng’an, USTCprofessor focusedongraphite
The university doesn’t have many restrictions as to how to use the initial funds given to recruited talents, so we can use the money more reasonably Zhang Huafeng, alifesciences cametoUSTCfromJohns HopkinsUniversityin2011 I found that the atmosphere among the faculty and the students is just like what I have experienced in the United States Gong Chen, aUSTCprofessor whojoinedtheuniversityin 2014andhasbeenfocusingon opticalwirelesscommunication
Pan Jianwei (right) and Lu Chaoyang conduct research at the University’s National Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory.
Overseas students take part in USTC’s summer camp in Hefei,