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
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
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.
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
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
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.
“ONLY THROUGH COMPREHENSIVE TRAINING AND ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE CAN YOU GET THE SPARK OF A GREAT IDEA.” “I HOPE MORE YOUNG PEOPLE CHOOSE TO FIND THEMSELVES IN THE FIELD OF SCIENCE.” “WE HOPE TO FORM A QUANTUM COMMUNICATION NETWORK OVER A WIDE AREA IN THE NEXT FIVE TO 10 YEARS.”
Students meet with top scientists at the Future Forum in Beijing in October.