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bout three af­ter this year’s Prize win­ners were an­nounced, dozens of world’s top sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing the 2016 No­bel Prize-win­ning chemist James Fraser Stod­dart gath­ered in Bei­jing.

Over the course of two days, they out­lined their cut­ting-edge re­search in fields such as com­puter sci­ence, neu­ro­science, as­tro­physics and ma­te­ri­als sci­ence, and cel­e­brated this year’s win­ners of the Fu­ture Sci­ence Prize.

Af­ter a long and rig­or­ous process of nom­i­na­tions, pro­fes­sional ap­praisals, ex­pert re­views and a se­cret bal­lot, three Chi­nese sci­en­tists were each hon­ored with a prize of $1 mil­lion.

This year’s math­e­mat­ics and com­puter sci­ence prize was awarded to Pek­ing Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Xu Chenyang for his con­tri­bu­tion to bi­ra­tional al­ge­braic ge­om­e­try, while Chi­nese quan­tum physi­cist Pan Jian­wei won the phys­i­cal sci­ence prize and bio­physi­cist Shi Yigong won the life sci­ence prize for break­throughs in their fields.

“This is the sec­ond year we are hon­or­ing top Chi­nese sci­en­tists with the awards,” says Wang Xiaodong, di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­sti­tute of Bi­o­log­i­cal Sci­ences Bei­jing and a mem­ber of the prize com­mit­tee.

“It shows that world-class sci­en­tific break­throughs and dis­cov­er­ies can come from China.”

The Fu­ture Sci­ence Prize was ini­ti­ated by a group of Chi­nese en­trepreneurs and sci­en­tists in 2016 aim­ing to honor out­stand­ing sci­en­tific re­search in ba­sic sci­ence and its ap­pli­ca­tion.

Xue Qikun, a physi­cist at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, and Den­nis Lo Yuk­ming, a pro­fes­sor of chem­i­cal pathol­ogy at the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong, re­spec­tively won a ma­te­ri­als sci­ence award and life sci­ence award at last year’s Fu­ture awards. weeks No­bel

Se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Pro­fes­sor Pan Jian­wei, 47, a quan­tum physi­cist at the Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy of China, won the 2017 Fu­ture Sci­ence Prize in phys­i­cal sci­ence. The award was for his work in en­abling the prac­ti­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion of se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tion through quan­tum key dis­tri­bu­tion.

One of the best ways to up­grade

Shi Yigong,

bio­physi­cist, win­ner of the life sci­ence prize com­mu­ni­ca­tion se­cu­rity is to use a sys­tem that en­crypts the in­for­ma­tion while si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­tect­ing eaves­drop­pers. Pan’s quan­tum physics ex­per­i­ments with en­tan­gled pho­tons helped to achieve this goal.

When an at­tempt is made to eaves­drop on a quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion it cre­ates a dis­tur­bance that can be de­tected.

De­spite its high se­cu­rity level, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this tech­nol­ogy faces a num­ber of chal­lenges in­clud­ing dis­tance and cost.

Pan and his team also broke the dis­tance record by send­ing a quan­tum en­crypted mes­sage about 1,200 kilo­me­ters from space to Earth.

Pan was the lead sci­en­tist of the world’s first quan­tum-com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite, Mi­cius, launched by China in 2016.

Xu Chenyang,

math­e­ma­ti­cian, win­ner of the math­e­mat­ics and com­puter sci­ence prize

“We hope to form a quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work over a wide area in the next five to 10 years,” Pan says.

Fun­da­men­tal life makeup

This year’s Fu­ture Sci­ence Prize in life sci­ence hon­ors Shi Yigong, 50, a bio­physi­cist pro­fes­sor at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, for his un­cov­er­ing of the high-res­o­lu­tion struc­ture of the spliceo­some, a sub­stance cru­cial to gene ex­pres­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search, one-third of hu­man ge­netic dis­eases are caused by mal­func­tions of a com­pli­cated cel­lu­lar process, which de­liv­ers in­for­ma­tion held in the DNA mol­e­cule into the cell. Spliceo­some is a key player in this process.

Less was known what the spliceo­some looked like be­fore Shi

Pan Jian­wei,

quan­tum physi­cist, win­ner of the phys­i­cal sci­ence prize found the struc­ture of the yeast spliceo­some at the atomic level.

“The struc­ture of the spliceo­some rep­re­sents a much greater chal­lenge than the struc­ture of the ri­bo­some, for which three in­di­vid­u­als in the past were awarded the No­bel Prize,” Din­shaw Pa­tel, a se­nior sci­en­tist and mem­ber of the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sci­ences, the United States, was quoted by Ts­inghua Univer­sity as say­ing in an email.

“It’s a mile­stone achieve­ment in Chi­nese life sci­ences and it will en­cour­age the next gen­er­a­tion to en­ter the field.”

Shi’s group has been us­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary new cry­o­elec­tron mi­croscopy and soft­ware tech­niques to pho­to­graph and an­a­lyze mil­lions of in­tact spliceo­somes.

They are cur­rently work­ing to un­tan­gle the se­crets of the hu­man

Math­e­mat­i­cal break­through

Pek­ing Univer­sity math pro­fes­sor Xu Chenyang, 36, was awarded the 2017 Fu­ture Sci­ence Prize in math­e­mat­ics and com­puter sci­ence for his fun­da­men­tal con­tri­bu­tions to bi­ra­tional al­ge­braic ge­om­e­try.

Xu en­tered the field of al­ge­braic ge­om­e­try when he was an un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent at Pek­ing Univer­sity.

“I like the way peo­ple use it. The lan­guage of al­ge­bra is very ab­stract but what they study is a con­crete geo­met­ric ob­ject,” says Xu, the youngest award-win­ner.

Al­ge­braic ge­om­e­try refers to ap­ply­ing the prob­lem-solv­ing power of al­ge­bra to ge­om­e­try. But when the equa­tions of al­ge­braic ge­om­e­try be­come com­pli­cated, the shapes can be in mul­ti­ple di­men­sions.

Xu and his col­leagues used a fun­da­men­tal math­e­mat­i­cal idea to em­u­late higher di­men­sion cal­cu­la­tions. The con­tri­bu­tions he has made to bi­ra­tional al­ge­braic ge­om­e­try are cru­cial to un­der­stand­ing the many di­men­sions of string the­ory and can be ap­plied in ar­eas in­clud­ing ro­bot­ics and cod­ing.

Xu says math­e­mat­ics is the ba­sic lan­guage to un­der­stand the world.

“It is the crown of sci­ence,” he says. “From the trans­mis­sion of cell­phone sig­nals to un­der­stand­ing the prop­er­ties of space, all are based on ad­vance­ments in math.”

The re­search break­through Xu made orig­i­nates from his pas­sion and love of math­e­mat­ics.

“I feel grate­ful for be­ing a math­e­ma­ti­cian,” he says. “It’s an en­joy­able and mean­ing­ful pro­fes­sion.”

Xu plans to do­nate part of his award to set up a schol­ar­ship to en­cour­age young peo­ple to con­duct re­search in al­ge­bra.

“I hope more young choose to find them­selves field of sci­ence,” he says. peo­ple in the

Tian Siyuan, 14, from Bei­jing Acad­emy, a school, asked Pan, the win­ner of phys­i­cal sci­ence prize, a ques­tion re­lated to the ap­pli­ca­tion of quan­tum physics. She was fas­ci­nated by this sub­ject when she was read­ing the award-win­ning Chi­nese sci-fi novel, The Three Body Prob­lem, by Liu Cixin.

“I am in­ter­ested in how sci­en­tists con­duct their re­search and the way they present their ac­com­plish­ments,” says Tian. “What they have been do­ing is mean­ing­ful, which in­spires me to be some­one like them.”

The youth fo­rum was both in­spir­ing and ed­u­ca­tional. The lau­re­ates not only shared their per­sonal sto­ries and their cut­ting-edge re­search, but also touched upon top­ics in­clud­ing in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary ed­u­ca­tion, the pub­lic’s at­ti­tude to­ward sci­ence and gen­der equal­ity in sci­ence.

Cai Ji­a­hong, 16, from Bei­jing No 4 High School In­ter­na­tional Cam­pus, was en­cour­aged by the an­swer of Shi, who won the life sci­ence prize, about gen­der equal­ity.

Af­ter the fo­rum, her con­cerns about be­ing a fe­male physi­cist were re­as­sured as she re­al­ized women can play an im­por­tant role in sci­en­tific ad­vance­ment.

“We should not be in­tim­i­dated by ti­tles such as ‘fe­male sci­en­tists’ and ‘fe­male PhDs’,” says Cai, who once won a na­tional physics competition prize. “It’s more im­por­tant to pur­sue what we truly de­sire rather than wor­ry­ing about oth­ers’ per­cep­tion about you.”

The ques­tions asked by the young at­ten­dees were highly ac­claimed by the lau­re­ates for their cre­ativ­ity, rel­e­vance and depth.

In a video in­ter­view, Pan en­cour­aged those in­tend­ing to pur­sue a ca­reer as sci­en­tists to be true to them­selves. “The fu­ture be­longs to the young gen­er­a­tion,” said Pan.



Stu­dents meet with top sci­en­tists at the Fu­ture Fo­rum in Bei­jing in Oc­to­ber.

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