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Xueming YANG: To Cultivate High-caliber and Interdisciplinary Talents


Editor' s Note: Since its founding, SUSTech has been focusing on both basic and applied research. It has long been working to lay a solid foundation in basic sciences such as mathematics, physics and chemistry, the cornerstone of all high-profile sci-tech universities.

Scientific, innovation-driven urban development has always been a focal point of SUSTech, thereby, College of Science is going to leverage an interdisciplinary approach to create "new science education.”

College of Science was established in December 2017, Dr.Yang Xueming is the founding Dean. 

Since then, the College has made remarkable progress by focusing on basic science research, including the establishment of SUSTech International Center for Mathematics, publications on Science, breakthrough on the Painlevé Conjecture and validation of 3D quantum Hall effect .

What's the next step of the College, and what kind of education will they offer? We had an interview with Dr. Yang Xueming, Dean of College of Science.

A New Chapter in the History of SUSTech 


Professor Yang Xueming is a world-renowned physical chemist. Currently, he serves as vice chairman of Chinese Chemical Society, director of Chemical Sciences Division of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

As the recipient of National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars and involved into the first batch of National special support program for high-level personnel recruitment, he is recognized as a fellow of both American Physical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. In 2011, he was elected as an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

Professor Yang traveled from Dalian to Shenzhen in 2017 to work as Dean of College of Science at SUSTech, a new institute within a young university. It gave him an opportunity to add an extraordinary page to the history of SUSTech. 

As he recalled the past, this was not the first time he met with SUSTech. 

Thanks to the invitation from academician Zhu Qingshi, the founding President of SUSTech and Yang' s tutor during his graduate study, prof. Yang Xueming was able to attend SUSTech' s first convocation. Later, he got several chances to deliver lectures on campus. 

It is the reform and innovation spirit that ties Yang and SUSTech together. He said that University Council Chair Guo Yurong and President Chen Shiyi then talked with him many times while he was mulling over whether to stay here. Ultimately, he determined that SUSTech can be a place where he could do something that he could not do elsewhere. 

As Yang had been here for one year, he felt that students in SUSTech are of high quality overall. Whether they were in class or in laboratory, they could think independently and raise new questions, and the faculty here also work hard and full of energy. "The assertive and determined people is a great driving force behind the development of SUSTech,” he said . 

Nowadays, as Dean of College of Science, he lived a typical “SUSTech” life. He well arranges his scientific research and administrative affairs, shuttling between laboratory and the office every day during the summer vacation. 

In his opinion, this is to squeeze time as much as possible to think about issues. “It is important to solve issues, whether to conduct research or to promote the development of the College. It is very important to identify the problem, think about it, and then solve it. In this way, you could do one thing well.” 


Building A Top Interdisciplinary College 

Prof.Yang believes that there is sufficient room for interdisciplinary development beyond classroom and laboratory, which would generate more than study within an individual discipline. 

“SUSTech has balanced the development of all its disciplines, which lays a solid foundation for interdisciplinary and integrated research and education,” Yang said. 

College of Science encourages an integrated interdisciplinary approach across all departments, both within the College and across SUSTech as a whole, particularly enhanced communications among disciplines within the College, and collaborations between science and engineering.

Yang Xueming adopts this approach as a result of his own education experience, where his major in physics required significant knowledge in chemistry. Throughout his career, he has made significant breakthroughs in reaction transition dynamics and non-adiabatic dynamics, supported with internationally advanced scientific instruments he developed himself. His research progress has been included in Top Ten Scientific and Technological Progress News in China in 2006 and 2007 – an achievement attained by a few scientists in mainland China.  

“Learning a subject is like learning a language. When you think about it, interdisciplinary studies develop a wider path and enhance the opportunities for achieving the best results, as opposed to studying just one subject.” Thereby, the College of Science is going to build a multi-disciplinary teaching system. As for general education, it will create opportunities for students to take courses across disciplines and grades, and fully explore their interests. The College’s mission is to cultivate talents with interdisciplinary background.



The opening ceremony of Shenzhen Grubbs Institute


The opening ceremony for SUSTech International Center for Mathematics

Along with six departments (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth & Space Sciences, Statistics & Data Science), College of Science adopts many approaches to enhance the cooperation among its departments and institutes, including Shenzhen Institute of Quantum Science and Engineering, Shenzhen Grubbs Institute and the International Center for Mathematics, named after Fields Medal winner Efim·Isaakovich·Zelmanov. 

“By the time the College of Science building is finished, staffs at constituent departments and research institutes will all work under one roof. It will be more convenient and effective, as everyone will be able to interact more efficiently. It will create more conducive conditions for interdisciplinary education, research and development.” 

The College currently has 112 teaching and research professors, including 4 academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1 academician of Australian Academy of Science and 7 recipients of National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. 

In the coming years, the College will further introduce and cultivate high-level talents with interdisciplinary background, promote research and development of interdisciplinary sciences, and build the College of Science into a first-class research-oriented college. 


To cultivate future science leader with interdisciplinary background 

 College of Science is blessed with enormously talented faculty members, including academicians and fellows. College of Science is also working to create high-level interdisciplinary talent pipeline development programs, which will help achieve its research and teaching goals. Facing the needs for social and strategic development for the Greater Bay Area, College of Science will take advantage of its critical disciplines and their role in laying the foundations for basic research in attracting interdisciplinary talent at every educational level, from undergraduate to Ph.D. level. 

“The cycle of the basic discipline innovation may be slightly longer, but it could play a greater role.” Yang Xueming emphasized that it is very important to lay a good foundation in learning basic disciplines. While vigorously cultivating talents with interdisciplinary backgrounds, the College also attaches great importance to education in the basic disciplines. 

College of Science attaches great importance to the basic scientific knowledge of students. Yang said that while helping students lay their scientific foundations, scholars should also encourage students to face their difficulties and cultivate their curiosity and the willingness to ask questions. Yang Xueming said, “To do a good job, understanding foundational science is often the key."

Yang Xueming and the College of Science leadership group believe that talent cultivation is the most important work. They have explored many new measures to enhance interdisciplinary studies within the ambit of their basic scientific education. 

For example, the Department of Mathematics has started to carry out graded teaching in its basic courses, and design course content based on students' abilities. The Department of Chemistry explores research-based teaching for undergraduate, and initiated the research-orientated flipped classrooms. Some courses have synchronized their theoretical teaching with their experimental practice. The Department of Physics is exploring new models of talent development, and organizing students to join experimental physics competitions both in China and around the world. 

In addition to professional guidance for students, College of Science arranges more than 100 professors to serve as life tutors in the residential college. It provides guidance to over 32% of the undergraduate students on campus to help students adapt to and plan their future studies. 

With strong support of College of Science, students have achieved significant success, including more than a dozen SCI-quality papers written by undergraduate students. Our students have succeeded in domestic and international competitions, including 37 awards in 2018 American College Students Mathematical Modeling Competition, and 17 awards in 2018 National College Students Mathematical Modeling Competition. 

With the 2019-2020 academic year commencing, the innovative genes of SUSTech and Shenzhen are coming to the fore within College of Science. Under the leadership of Yang Xueming, College of Science will continue to foster an academic culture imbued with cutting-edge interdisciplinary education that enhances the understanding of a solid foundation in cultivating high-quality scientific leaders. The College of Science will develop its talent pipeline and stride towards its goal of becoming a renowned College of Science within China and around the world.