A family of four generations in Tsinghua campus

For a family, “four generations” symbolize a form of reunited happiness with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, this continuation is of blood relationships. In terms of careers, this signifies a continuation of spirit where the business has qualified successors. There is an old Chinese saying, which goes “A teacher for a day is a father for a lifetime”, this represents the respect Chinese tradition has towards their teachers. In Tsinghua, we also have a few families of four generations, all of whom have worked diligently and made excellent accomplishments towards scientific researches.

The 14th Tsinghua “Mentor Prize” Awards party was held in September 2014, where a 90-year-old academician Huang Kezhi took out his phone and said, “This phone, a gift from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has a special button which when pressed, can get through to my emergency contact persons and let them know about my whereabouts. There are only two emergency contacts on my phone, one is my wife, and the other is Professor Zhuang Zhuo”. In 1995, Dr. Zhuang Zhuo went back to Tsinghua University from abroad and did his postdoctoral research under academician Huang Kezhi’s guidance. While reminiscing on the old days, Professor Zhuang felt extremely touched because academician Huang didn’t only support his research but also took care of his family.

Soon afterwards, Professor Zhuang Zhuo cultivated many students including Associate Professor Liu Zhanli from the Department of Engineering Mechanics at School of Aerospace Engineering. Liu Zhanli became a Ph.D. candidate of Professor Zhuang Zhuo in 2004 and got his Doctor degree in 2009, while also winning the prize of “The top 100 outstanding doctoral dissertations” in 2011. Dr. Liu Zhanli said, “Professor Zhuang always told me that students cultivated by Tsinghua University need to step into the international platform and strengthen their broader vision.” When Dr. Liu Zhanli was about to graduate, Professor Zhuang recommended him to the world’s leading research group in the field of computational mechanics. Before he set out, Professor Zhuang told him, “Your going abroad is for a better coming back.” When he was about to finish his postdoctoral research and faced with a choice, Dr. Liu got Professor Zhuang’s email, which was simple but powerful, U.S. or China? “Professor Zhuang always says they would design the most suitable road for an individual student. I can feel the responsibility embedded in his words and I decided to deliver this comprehensive cultivation spirit to later generations.” Now, the fourth generation of the research team is Li Xiang who became a Ph.D. student of Dr. Liu Zhanli in 2015.

At Tsinghua University, there are other research teams similar to this who pass on spirit from generation to generation. For example, professors Tong Dechun, Tang Chuanxiang and Du Yingchao from the Department of Engineering Physics; professors Jin Yong, Wei Fei, and Zhang Qiang from the Department of Chemical Engineering; all their teams have many fourth-generation students and the number will continue to increase.

For all such generations, they all carry the same spirit and push their scientific accomplishments to or even exceed the world frontiers. Through their own encouraging words and deeds, they have instructed and influenced more people to construct their motherland. It’s their years of persistency, dedication and research that contributes to today’s achievements and a better expectable future.

Note: This article was adapted from the article titled “Academician Huang Kezhi: the emergency contact person on my phone is my student| A family of four generations in Tsinghua campus” published by the WeChat account “Tsinghua University Xiaoyan Online” on May 13, 2016. Some contents were changed per requirement.

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