Over­seas pro­gram cher­ished as turn­ing point for sci­en­tists


The Uni­ver­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy of China has been en­cour­ag­ing prom­i­nent young em­ploy­ees to broaden their per­spec­tives on sci­en­tific re­search through over­seas ed­u­ca­tion and work ex­pe­ri­ence.

One ex­am­ple is Wu Heng’an, who had an op­por­tu­nity to work with An­dre Geim, lau­re­ate of the 2010 No­bel Prize in Physics, at the Uni­ver­sity of Manch­ester from 2010 to 2011.

He cher­ishes the one-year ex­pe­ri­ence as a turn­ing point for his aca­demic ca­reer.

Wu, 41, pro­fes­sor of USTC in area of graphite,had been study­ing at USTC from 1993 to 2002 and got his bach­e­lor’s, mas­ter’s and PhD de­grees there.

Af­ter work­ing at the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore from 2002 to 2004, Wu was em­ployed by USTC as an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the uni­ver­sity’s School of En­gi­neer­ing Science in 2004.

“Be­ing fo­cused on the me­chan­i­cal prop­er­ties of nanome­ter ma­te­ri­als, my first years in USTC as a prin­ci­pal

My team now in­cludes dozens of prom­i­nent re­searchers, many of whom are also re­turnees from some of the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tific in­sti­tu­tions. Wu Heng’an, USTC pro­fes­sor fo­cused on graphite

in­ves­ti­ga­tor, or holder of an in­de­pen­dent grant ad­min­is­tered by the uni­ver­sity and the lead re­searcher for the grant project, were quite chal­leng­ing, since I thought I ur­gently needed to broaden my per­spec­tives on re­search”, said Wu.

Wu re­al­ized only the top sci­en­tist in the field could help him with his re­search on graphite, a field on which he has been fo­cused since 2008.

In Septem­ber, 2009, USTC ini­ti­ated a pro­gram to en­cour­age prom­i­nent young sci­en­tists to seek over­seas ex­pe­ri­ences by cov­er­ing their ex­penses. Af­ter learn­ing the fa­vor­able poli­cies at a cam­pus con­fer­ence, Wu emailed An­dre Geim, telling the lat­ter what he had been fo­cus­ing on, what he had achieved and how he wanted to fur­ther his re­search.

“I didn’t want to miss such an ex­cep­tional op­por­tu­nity,” said Wu.

To Wu’s sur­prise, Pro­fes­sor Geim replied the next morn­ing and in­vited Wu to his lab­o­ra­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Manch­ester.

Af­ter some prepara­tory work, Wu left for Geim’s lab the next year, in which the sci­en­tist won the No­bel Prize in Physics.

Wu’s ex­pe­ri­ence in Geim’s lab lasted for al­most a year, af­ter which his col­lab­o­ra­tion with the worl­drenowned sci­en­tist con­tin­ued. Af­ter Wu re­turned to USTC at the end of 2011, Wu achieved some ma­jor break­throughs in his field and pub­lished two joint pa­pers in the jour­nal “Science” and three other ones in “Na­ture” with Geim.

“My team now in­cludes dozens of prom­i­nent re­searchers, many of whom are also re­turnees from some of the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tifi in­sti­tu­tions,” said Wu, now direc­tor of the Key Lab­o­ra­tory of Me­chan­i­cal Be­hav­ior and De­sign of Ma­te­ri­als.

“And we now welcome more tal­ents to join us,” said Wu.

Students from around the world per­form Taichi dur­ing their over­seas pro­gram at USTC.

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