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Overseas Program Cherished as Turning Point for Scientists


The University of Science and Technology of China has been encouraging prominent young employees to broaden their perspectives on scientific research through overseas education and work experience.

One example is Wu Heng'an, who had an opportunity to work with Andre Geim, laureate of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics, at the University of Manchester from 2010 to 2011.

He cherishes the one-year experience as a turning point for his academic career.

Wu, 41, professor of USTC in area of graphite, had been studying at USTC from 1993 to 2002 and got his bachelor's, master's and PhD degrees there.

After working at the National University of Singapore from 2002 to 2004, Wu was employed by USTC as an associate professor at the university's School of Engineering Sciencein 2004.

Professor WU in the lab. (Image by DING Xing, USTC)

"Being focused on the mechanical properties of nanometer materials, my first years in USTC as a principal investigator, or holder of an independent grant administered by the university and the lead researcher for the grant project, were quite challenging, since I thought I urgently needed to broaden my perspectives on research", said Wu.

Wu realized only the top scientist in the field could help him with his research on graphite, a field on which he has been focused since 2008.

In September, 2009, USTC initiated a program to encourage prominent young scientists to seek overseas experiences by covering their expenses. After learning the favorable policies at a campus conference, Wu emailed Andre Geim, telling the latter what he had been focusing on, what he had achieved and how he wanted to further his research.

"I didn't want to miss such an exceptional opportunity," said Wu.

To Wu's surprise, Professor Geim replied the next morning and invited Wu to his laboratory at the University of Manchester.

After some preparatory work, Wu left for Geim's lab the next year, in which the scientist won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Wu's experience in Geim's lab lasted for almost a year, after which his collaboration with the world-renowned scientist continued. After Wu returned to USTC at the end of 2011, Wu achieved some major breakthroughs in his field and published two joint papers in the journa "Science" and three other ones in "Nature" with Geim.

"My team now includes dozens of prominent researchers, many of whom are also returnees from some of the world's leading scientific institutions," said Wu, now director of the Key Laboratory of Mechanical Behavior and Design of Materials.

"And we now welcome more talents to join us," said Wu. (China Daily)

(Editor: LI Yuan)