Message from the Head | What next for SUSTech’s materials science
Chris Edwards | 09/11/2020

The creation of supercomputers, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) is central to the industrial transformation of the Greater Bay Area. These technological developments require new materials to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Internet 4.0. At Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), materials science has been one of the cornerstones of our development.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) was one of the first departments established at SUSTech. It has progressed rapidly, exhibiting significant quality improvements in its short history. Their advancement is typified by the arrival of the materials science discipline in ESI’s top 4% in the world in July 2020.

With the opportunities arising from the pioneering development zone of Shenzhen and the transformative prospects taking place across the Greater Bay Area, how can MSE further promote itself as a first-class discipline that trains world-class talents? The new head of MSE, Professor Jiangyu LI, provided his point of view on the next stage of development for the Department.

Before coming to SUSTech, Professor Jiangyu LI had spent much of his academic career overseas, with his last position as the Associate Chair (Research) at the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) at the University of Washington (UW). He said, “I have always been influenced by traditional Chinese culture. Even though I have been studying and working abroad for a long time, I could always find a cultural belonging here.”

Professor Jiangyu LI is highly regarded in the field of functional intelligent materials and structural mechanical behavior. He has published over 200 papers in high-impact academic journals such as Science, Nature Materials, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and Physical Review Letters. His papers have been cited over 8800 times.

His honors include the Sia Nemat-Nasser Early Career Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Microscopy Today Innovation Award from the Microscopy Society of America (MSA), and the Youth Achievement Award from the International Conference on Computational & Experimental Engineering and Sciences (ICCES). Professor Jiangyu LI has also served as the associate editor of the Journal of Applied Physics and on the editorial board of the Nature Publishing Group.

Professor Jiangyu LI highlighted SUSTech’s academic disciplines, governance, and sizzling academic atmosphere when comparing it to other top universities around the world. Professor Jiangyu LI pointed out that, “At SUSTech, academic resources are evenly distributed among all professors. The development of the talent pipeline gives young scholars more room for development, just like in the United States.”

While Professor Jiangyu LI feels he is joining an energetic department in a new university, he admitted that he instantly felt comfortable. The beautiful campus environment reminded him of many campuses at which he had worked and studied in the past. The bubbling brooks and fertile flora are just like those found at beautiful campuses he has been at before.

In joining SUSTech, Professor Jiangyu LI has found himself at a familiar, yet youthful and energetic university. He will work in conjunction with SUSTech to continue developing MSE into a world-class materials science discipline, as SUSTech progresses into a world-class research university.

Professor Jiangyu LI is an enthusiastic believer in the merger of science and engineering that is materials science. In his desire to build a world-class materials science discipline, SUSTech must take advantage of the unique advantages that are available throughout Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area. Our innovative roots in Shenzhen support the reforming of the entire industrial chain while supporting entrepreneurial activity across the Greater Bay Area.

Professor Jiangyu LI said, “MSE will take advantage of the distinctive characteristics of the Greater Bay Area and Shenzhen to promote further industry-university research. That research will drive the development of science and engineering within materials science.”

MSE is working to supplement national and regional strategic plans through its cutting-edge scientific developments. It is focusing on developing electronic information materials, energy environmental materials, biological and medical materials, functional materials, and material processing & manufacturing. This focus on new materials will see MSE build a world-renowned talent training base that is centered around scientific research. To date, they have undertaken 184 research projects at all levels. MSE faculty members and scholars have published over 900 papers in high-impact academic journals and applied for 323 patents.

Since its establishment, MSE has founded four joint laboratories with well-renowned companies. They include the SUSTech-Kaisa Industry and Advanced Materials Innovation Center with the Kaisa Group, SUSTech-Xinhai Joint Laboratory with Xinhai Machines, the SUSTech Taili Di-Atom Materials Joint Laboratory with Shenzhen Taili Energy, and the SUSTech-Jiaming Joint Laboratory with Shenzhen Jiaming Technology.

The SUSTech Taili Di-Atom Materials Joint Laboratory is exploring the multi-directional nature of di-atoms. The research into these microalgae has been highly productive. Their research outcomes include fully degradable plastic, superhydrophobic coatings, and heavy metal adsorption. These results of the laboratory’s research have seen scholars apply for three invention patents, and a further three patents are being prepared. They have also incubated a technology company.

The most high-profile start-up company that has been launched from MSE is Shenzhen Nanke New Materials Technology, founded by Class of 2015 alumni Zhi ZHANG. It is committed to the development, transformation, and industrialization of new materials. The company has received funding for various research projects. The company was instrumental in developing new technology for supporting front-line health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, with their invention of anti-fog disinfectant wipes.

This industry-university research collaboration is a perfect example of Professor Jiangyu LI’s goals for the future. He aims to integrate MSE with regional resources and establish an Industry Advisory Council (MSE-IAC). The MSE-IAC would invite senior R&D and management figures across industry to provide their perspectives on the direction of scientific research and engineering. The cooperation would also provide more opportunities for students to solve practical problems through the application of their theoretical knowledge.

The development of the talent pipeline at MSE has seen most of its alumni take part in high-level scientific research during the Department’s short history. Its graduating students are employed in a variety of industries or continue their academic pursuits following their graduation from their undergraduate degrees.

Starting his new post at MSE, Professor Jiangyu LI has many ideas for the future development and talent training plans for MSE. He has been inspired by the College of Engineering’s Turing Class and Master Class. He hopes that in the future, MSE can create its own experimental class that allows students to explore their scientific research potential.

He also wants to expand on the emerging engineering talent training model espoused by top engineering universities around the world. Students would undertake project-based learning from product design to completion as part of any potential new direction for MSE.

“There are many areas that will serve society, including solar cells and soft robots. Students can use these real-world applications to develop their skills while further enhancing MSE’s talent training models.

The College of Engineering has been embedding industry adjunct professors into its departments, including MSE. These professors, with extensive experience in companies like Shenzhen Xinweier Electronics and Shanghai Etorch Electro-Mechanical Technology, have supported students through the development of professional courses and scholarships. Other leading figures, such as Zongqing YANG and Guangwu HUANG (Hunan Overseas Construction & Engineering Corporation), have donated for the creation of scholarships in their name.

Not only does MSE have highly quality industry adjunct professors on staff, but top-notch faculty members surround those industry experts. The creation of a high-level, globalized faculty includes a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE) and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). There is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy, and Petroleum (CIM).

The combination of science and engineering means that students can explore and discover new knowledge while cultivating their ability to create a new world. Professor Jiangyu LI believes students taking the path will have more choices. In the course of their research, they will discover many fascinating things, some real and some false, some imagined and some puzzling. Regardless of their nature, students must maintain their natural curiosity for scientific progress and engineering development.

Professor Jiangyu LI compared the process of learning materials science to becoming an expert chef. “Materials science is a creative process. You mix all sorts of things today to make things. Even though different people have put together the same raw materials in the past, they can create different things with them. It is your talent and inspiration that will determine what happens at the end.”

In closing, Professor Jiangyu LI welcomed students who want to join MSE. The Department is developing a world-class materials science discipline that will foster students as they tap into their potential and see them grow beyond their imagination.

2020, 09-11
By Chris Edwards

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Success at SUSTech

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Translated and Adapted By SUSTech Newshub

Proofread ByYingying XIA

Photo ByDepartment of Materials Science and Engineering, Yan QIU

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