Professor Cheng Xin is the Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech). Apart from many outstanding scientific achievements he achieved, he paid a lot of time and energy in university affairs. At the SUSTech’s 2018 Teachers’Day Ceremony, Cheng Xin won the Distinguished Service Award.
In 2011, he received the Young Scholar Award from the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Natural Science Foundation of the United States. In 2013, he resigned as a tenured professor of Texas A&M University and officially joined SUSTech. His main research interests include ultra-high-precision micro-nano manufacturing technology and related semiconductor device development, new semiconductor materials and functional materials, nano-optics, micro-nano electromechanical sensors and systems.
Strive to create a good environment for teachers and students
Before Cheng Xin joined SUSTech full-time in 2013, he spent the 2012 and 2013 summer vacations here. He was part of a group of people who helped develop SUSTech in its earliest stages. His involvement mainly included putting academic disciplines together, designing laboratory, and planning scientific research platforms.
Later, Cheng Xin served as the head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and began to formalize the creation of the Department. His daily thoughts moved away from traditional scholarly considerations and moved to new issues like molding a talent pipeline and developing a curriculum for training the incoming students. Once his arrival at SUSTech, he now had to work step by step to build the scaffolding for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
When talking about future plans for the Department, Cheng Xin said that even though China is a big manufacturing country, many of the core materials are imported. The demand for materials science knowledge in China is extremely high as a result. The Department’s plans account for China’s needs, mainly in the field of high-end materials and cutting-edge materials, while also incorporating new materials. High-level papers centered around basic research are a key pin of the Department’s future. They also want to strengthen their industry-university cooperation in areas such as production and research. Such an approach would easily take root in Shenzhen, given its innovative roots, and would bring high-end, cutting-edge technology to the global market, creating maximum value for all concerned.
Although Cheng is extremely busy as the Department Head, he still finds time to conduct his own scientific research and teach classes. Cheng said “I’m still a professor. I hope that I can spend more time and energy on research and teaching. In the long run, administrative work ensures the fair and equitable distribution of resources. It also solves the needs and problems of the faculty members and ensures that they can concentrate on teaching and research. This creates a highly efficient, unified and positive work environment, which is necessary for creating important work.”
He believes that it is SUSTech’s administrative staff that can maintain the school’s efficiency. They are the people that create a spiritual home with a free academic atmosphere that is positive, beautiful and harmonious for both faculty members and students.
Establish an efficient public research platform
Cheng Xin also held an important position: Director of the SUSTech Materials Characterization and Preparation Center. He is responsible for establishing and managing an important public research platform. He said that in this era of scientific research information, competing with the world’s scientific and technological powers, how can we run ahead, how can we do faster than others? He believes that a lot depends on the hardware conditions.
The online management system of SUSTech Analysis and Testing Center has the function of online booking equipment and monitoring equipment status. It can record the usage status, training status, and maintenance status of the equipment in detail to maintain the equipment.
In order to build this research platform, Cheng Xin refers to the practices of some famous universities at home and abroad. Building a platform was merely the first step. It takes far more effort to maintain and manage the devices within the platform. After establishing the platform in the Analysis Test Center, SUSTech hired more than 20 overseas returning engineers to maintain and manage the equipment on a daily basis. This team not only enables the center to operate efficiently and smoothly but also unearths the high-end functions of the equipment. As a result, researchers have the equipment to support their cutting-edge research.
“The work we do frees the researchers from managing and maintaining the cumbersome daily scientific research equipment. As a result, they can focus on the scientific issues themselves and make their work more efficient. The platform is still developing. With the development of departments and academic disciplines, they will each need their own specific platform for activities. We will also be involved more in the future.” Cheng Xin proudly said.
Students are the proudest work of teachers.
At SUSTech, professors must not only carry out the daily work of research and teaching. They are also required to take part in enrolling students. It can be said that from the talent pipeline to their cultivation, faculty members participate in the entire process. If the research is the goal of the SUSTech scholars, then the student is their best work, the effort that makes them most proud.
Cheng Xin is no exception and helps enroll students from Zhejiang Province. He said that in the enrollment process, the most difficult thing at the beginning was communicating with parents and teachers. The most regrettable thing was that students who highly recognized the concept of running a department at SUSTech then did not come to school for various reasons. His happiest moments in enrollment work have come from being able to select talents personally. He saw that the students finally chose SUSTech, the university that they liked and could imagine in their dreams. Even if they worked hard, they felt full of promise and future benefits. Although it took a lot of time and effort, in recent years, the school has made significant progress in enrollment, which makes people feel very fulfilled.
“Teaching is a very meaningful job.” Cheng Xin said. Cheng Xin has organized a detailed training program for professors, so they understand how to train and teach the students. An early stage of his teaching plan includes guiding students to enter research groups to do scientific research as early as possible. The more practice they get in conducting research, the more problems they will find and the more problems they will solve. He dumped the traditional model of writing a graduation thesis for a comprehensive design project, based on industry requirements. Such an approach requires input from students from multiple and various departments. This teaches students not only how to solve practical problems but also how to cooperate with others.
Cheng Xin is very concerned about the growth of students. When students first come to the university, their learning methods and models need to change substantially from the high school experiences. It is easy to fall behind in school because they cannot adapt to the university’s learning model. Cheng Xin often organizes some forums to chat with freshmen, to help them understand and integrate into university life as soon as possible and manage their life and study.
At SUSTech, there are many teachers like Cheng Xin who have been here since our establishment. They have dedicated their blood, sweat, and tears to SUSTech. Without them, there would be no “SUSTech Speed” or “Shenzhen Speed,” unique to the development of Southern University of Science and Technology.
Proofread ByChris Edwards, Xia Yingying
Photo ByWang Kaiqiang, Zhang Xiaoyan