In lead of his peers: the starting journey of a student scientist
2016-05-17 readCount:1403
Since the start of this semester, Jian Wurong, a student at SCUT School of Civil Engineering and Transportation, drew attention from people around the campus. After years of study in the Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate Program, his latest research on nanocomposites was published, listing him as the first author, on Nanotechnology, a primary international academic journal with Impact Factor (IF) 3.81.
This is the sixth SCI article he has published within 10 months, and the most impressive one that most of youngsters at his age may not be able to accomplish, even though he is still a student not far from the starting line of his career of science.
How did he manage to do it at SCUT? This article is a way for you to find out his secrets.
The Innovation Classes: a pattern to help students focus and leap
“I love to try different ideas and challenges, and my class gives me privileges to jump start on these attempts,” said Jian Wurong, giving credit to the Innovation Class he studies at.
As Jian mentioned “privileges”, he referred to at least three settings in the Innovation Classes. First is about how to guide the students to manage the transition from undergraduate study to graduate study by giving them integrated curriculums, which combines undergraduate courses and graduate courses that are similar or close as one connective body.
These curriculums are academically-based but also quite practical, instructing students to learn to ask questions, and then to participate in actual research projects and to study real cases, starting from the undergraduate phase.
Another advantage for the students in the Innovation Classes is they have the access to some of the best research facilities in the country. Currently, the university owns 14 laboratories or research centers at national level and 95 at provincial level, which are all open to students. It provides powerful hardware support for Jian to allow him test and improve his ideas in genuine laboratories.
In addition, only the best students in the Innovation Classes are eligible to attend top-level academic conferences at home or even abroad. According to Jian’s supervisor Professor Yao Xiaohu, once a student earns an opportunity of this kind that receives full financial support from the university, he or she will not only be present on the conference, but also be required to give a briefing on his research project on the stage, where the student can get advices and instructions from top experienced professionals from all over the world.
“First it requires the student to reach a certain level in academic research, and then they will be encouraged to attend conferences,” said Yao.
Funding support: a promise to practice best ideas
One-hundred-steps is a stone stairway consisting of 100 stairs connecting the main drive near SCUT’s gate and School of Business that locates on a ridge. It is a landmark at Wushan Campus, implying the spirit for college students to climb up to the top of knowledge.
In 1999, SCUT launched One-hundred-steps Project, a funding project named after the staircase to support students in conducting extra-curriculum research programs. As long as students manage to produce good ideas, they are qualified to get funding from the university – that was what the project promises to them, and Jian was one of the students that benefited from such a promise.
However, he soon found that conducting a real project is not that convenient as attending classes or doing class experiments. Apart from science itself, learning how to apply, to use the funding appropriately, to paper, and to conclude are also quite challenging, which require him to learn from supervisors and experiences.
Associate Professor He Tinghui used to supervise several undergraduate research programs. She and her colleagues helped Jian and his partners to develop their own program, which then received funding support from the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities and One-hundred-steps Project. The result of the research, an automatic rainfall simulator based on STM32 microcontroller, turned out to be an innovative patent.
“For these undergraduates, the experience was an early training on research paradigms,” said He. “We wanted them to break through from scientific theories to practices, and to transfer ideas into actions rather than empty talks.”
Statistics shows that up till now SCUT has invested more than 30 million Yuan of program funding to subsidize extra-curriculum research programs conducted by students.
The mechanism of promoting student to participate in research programs, which is systematically supported by different layers of funding sources including national, provincial and university level, involves over 40% of undergraduate students and all graduate students in SCUT, enabling more than 50,000 successful applicants to engage in scientific researches and technology transfers.
Joint training: an additive to fertilize a different soil
Professor Yao, as Jian’s on-campus supervisor, is not the only mentor appearing in the picture of Jian’s growing. Over a thousand kilometers away in Sichuan province, Jian also has an off-campus supervisor, Professor Luo Shengnian, Director of Peac Institute of Multiscale Science, a prominent scholar of 1000-Talent Plan, which is a China’s major national program in recruiting global experts. The two top professionals formed a team, a super power of teaching to cultivate an extraordinary student.
Along with Luo’s knowledge and experience, he also brings multiple resources of Peac to Jian and other students that are included in the joint training program started by SCUT and Peac. For these youngsters, what Peac can give them is a huge case of treasure, including first-class equipments, super computers and a professional research team.
In November 2014, Jian became the first student of the SCUT-Peac Joint Program of Cultivating Talents of Engineering Mechanics. Guided by the two supervisors, he was privileged to choose a specific laboratory according to his aptitude and interest, and then to participate in research programs inside the lab.
At Peac, he spent at least six days a week in readings and group discussions, and was required to report his latest development to the team every month, but he still felt thirsty for soaking up more.
“It was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “No one wanted to miss it.”
The study at Peac was a boost after Jian’s experiences in the Innovation Class and funding-supported programs at SCUT. Fruits were ripe as he was able to produce his ideas and organize them well in academic papers. It is a turning point where he started to publish papers on premier international journals. Three SCI papers as the first author within six months – that was what he presented back to the system that fostered him.
The SCUT-Peac program is merely one of the 120 similar joint programs at SCUT. The university has settled long-term partnerships with over 200 major universities and research institutions at home and abroad. Every year, over 1000 undergraduate and graduate students are sent to joint programs that cover all majors of the university.
The above initiatives are considered as a today’s practice of the ancient Chinese educational idea “Yin Cai Shi Jiao”, meaning “to teach students according to their aptitude”. The Students are specifically directed to an academic area where they show strong aptitude at the early stage of their college life, and under this manner their potential can be deeper developed by concentrated focus with aids from their supervisors and other university resources.
Over the years, SCUT has produced a long list of student names who were able to give important contribution to frontier scientific research, such as Jin Xin, Luo Reibang and Liu Shiping, and now with Jian Wurong and many others on the way of joining them.

Chinese version by University News Center
English version rewritten by Xu Peimu and Lin Jiaxin
Edited by Xu Peimu