SUSTech / What they say

Dean of College of Science


Since its establishment, SUSTech has been focusing on both basic and applied research. It has long been working to lay a solid foundation in the basic sciences such as mathematics, physics and chemistry -- the cornerstone scientific departments for all high-profile universities.


Scientific, innovation-driven urban development has always been a focal point for SUSTech and with that in mind the development of the College of Science at SUSTech will enhance the interdisciplinary approach of “new science education.”

Accordingly, the College of Science was established in December 2017, with Yang Xueming as its founding Dean.

Since it foundation, the College has achieved a lot of highlights by focusing on basic science research, including the establishment of the SUSTech International Center for Mathematics, with Professor Tan Bin’s team’ research on the four-component Ugi reaction being published in Science and Associate Professor Zhang Liyuan from the Department of Physics confirming the existence of the 3D quantum Hall effect.

What is the next step and future plan of the College, and what kind of education will it offer? To find out, we interviewed Dean Yang Xueming,.

To create a new history for SUSTech

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

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

Professor Yang traveled from Dalian to Shenzhen in 2017 to become the Dean of the College of Science at SUSTech, a new institution within a young university. It was an opportunity to write his pages of the university’s history.

As he recalled, this was not his first time to SUSTech.

The founding President of SUSTech, Academician Zhu Qingshi was Yang’s tutor during his graduate studies. He was invited to attend SUSTech’s first convocation. Later, he delivered several lectures on campus.

Yang was attracted to SUSTech because of its innovative spirit. He said that University Council Chairperson Guo Yurong and President Chen Shiyi talked with him many times while he was mulling over the decision. Ultimately, he determined that SUSTech was a place he could do something that he could not do anywhere else.

Yang has been at SUSTech for one year, and feels that the overall quality of the students is high. When students are in class and experimenting, they think independently, and raise new questions. The faculty members are also of high quality, with everyone working really hard and full of energy. “The assertive and determined people here have been contributing to the rapid development of SUSTech,”he said.

Today, as Dean, he lives a typical “SUSTech” life. He arranges daily scientific research and administrative affairs, shuttling between the laboratory and the office even during summer vacation.

In his opinion, this requires him to squeeze out as much time as possible for thinking about the problem of focus. ”It is very important to solve the problem of whether to conduct research or 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 can do one thing well.”

Building the foundations for a top interdisciplinary college

It is Yang’s view that there are interdisciplinary development opportunities beyond the classroom and laboratory that are far greater than what can be gained from study within an individual discipline.

“SUSTech has implemented a well-balanced development strategy for all its disciplines, which lays a good foundation for interdisciplinary and integrated research and education,” Yang said.

The College of Science encourages an integrated, interdisciplinary approach across all departments, both within the College and across SUSTech as a whole, not only for enhanced communications between disciplines within the College, but also for collaboration between science and engineering.

Yang Xueming pushes this approach as a result of his own education experience, where his major in physics required significant knowledge of chemistry. Throughout his career, he has made important contributions in reaction transition dynamics and non-adiabatic dynamics, using internationally advanced scientific instruments that he developed himself. His research results were positioned at the Top of the Ten Scientific and Technological Progress achievements for China in 2006 and 2007 – something attained by 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 increase the opportunities for achieving the best results, as opposed to studying just one subject.” As a result, the College of Science will further build a multi-disciplinary teaching system. As for general education, the College of Science will create opportunities for students to take courses across disciplines and grades, and fully explore their interests. The College’s mission is to cultivate future leaders with interdisciplinary backgrounds.


The opening ceremony for the Grubbs Institute Shenzhen


The opening ceremony for the SUSTech International Center for Mathematics

The College of Science adopts many approaches to enhance cooperation between its five departments of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Earth & Space Sciences and Statistics & Data Science, its various centers such as the Shenzhen Institute of Quantum Science and Engineering, the Grubbs Institute Shenzhen, and the International Center for Mathematics which bears the name of Fields Medal winner Efim Isaakovich Zelmanov.

“By the time the College of Science building is finished, the constituent departments and research institutes will all work together 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 four academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, one foreign academician of Australia, seven recipients of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, 12 recipients of National Special Experts, and 33 National Special Experts (Young Scholars).

Next, the College will further introduce and cultivate high-level talents of interdisciplinary backgrounds, promote research and development of the interdisciplinary sciences, and build the College of Science into a first-class research-oriented college.

To cultivate future science leader with interdisciplinary backgrounds

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

“The cycle of the basic discipline innovation may be slightly longer, but may play a greater role,”said Yang, emphasizing that it is very important to lay a good foundation in basic disciplines, to which the college attaches great importance  even as it vigorously cultivates talents with interdisciplinary backgrounds.

Yang said that while helping students lay their scientific foundations, scholars should also encourage them to face their difficulties and cultivate their curiosity and be willing to ask questions. Yang said,“To do a good job, understanding foundational science is often the key. A good foundation helps us understand faster.”

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

For example, the Department of Mathematics has started to carry out graded teaching in its basic courses, and to design course content based on students’abilities as assessed by the course project leader. The Department of Chemistry explored research-based teaching for undergraduates, and initiated research-orientated classrooms. Some courses have synchronized theoretical teaching with experimental practice. The Department of Physics is exploring new models of talent development, and organizing students to participate in experimental physics competitions both within China and around the world.

In addition to professional guidance for students, the College of Science has arranged for more than 100 professors to serve as life tutors in the residential college. They provide guidance to over 32% of the undergraduate students on campus to help them plan their future studies.

With the strong support of the College of Science, students have achieved significant success, with undergraduate students publishing dozens of papers, including more than a dozen SCI-quality papers. Students have succeeded in domestic and international competitions, winning 37 awards in the 2018 American College Students Mathematical Modeling Competition, and 17 in the 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 the College of Science. Under Yang’s leadership and management the College of Science will continue to foster an academic culture imbued with cutting-edge interdisciplinary education that cultivates a solid foundation in order to build high-quality future scientific leaders. The College of Science will develop its talent pipeline and stride towards its goals of developing itself into a world renowned basic and applied research institution within China and around the world.

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