Today is International Women’s Day. Let's meet some of the inspiring women at Tsinghua who are driving change in their workplace, their communities and beyond, through their relentless pursuit of excellence in their fields of expertise.
Guo Daiheng, Retired Professor, School of Architecture
Dedicating her life to architecture
"As the most splendid royal garden in ancient times, the Old Summer Palace has extremely high historical, cultural and scientific value, making it worthy of further study."
In 1954, Prof. Guo Daiheng entered Tsinghua as an architecture student, and six years later, she stayed to teach, during which time she started research on ancient buildings. Since 1999, Prof. Guo has led her team to carry out a series of research on the Old Summer Palace. Considering the development of technology and the public’s eagerness to “see it with eyes,” she and her team turned to digital technology, and decided to build a database of the historic palace.
They integrated historical documents, paintings, and archaeological discoveries, reconstructing the development of the Old Summer Palace over the last 150 years in a series of videos. Eventually, in her 80s, after 18 years of hard work by her team, the virtual reconstruction of the Old Summer Palace was successfully completed.
With the help of precise digital technology, her team established a milestone in architecture, providing a tool for “translating” historical information into a “language” understandable and accessible to any viewers. In Prof. Guo’s view, using digital technology for the ‘restoration’ is the best way to fully display the true style of it in various periods across time, as well as to remind the public of such information as "destroyed in 1860", which any other methods cannot match.
Wu Hao, Professor, Yau Mathematical Sciences Center, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Following the heart to study mathematics
“Although solving complex mathematic problems has no effect on real life, the satisfaction from it can last for a long time.”
After serving as a Moore instructor at MIT and a postdoc at Geneva University, Prof. Wu Hao joined the Yau Mathematical Sciences Center (YMSC) and Department of Mathematical Sciences at Tsinghua University, and became a tenured Professor in 2017.
Prof. Wu encourages students, especially female students who are interested in mathematics, to follow their hearts and make decisions bravely. She holds the belief that the mathematical research has nothing to do with gender, and girls are actually more resistant to frustration, a more important quality than talent to excel in research.
From her perspective, mathematicians are mostly spontaneous, “because we often work on problems that interest us over problems that are practical.”
Sun Hong, Ph.D. Student, School of Journalism and Communication
Fighting against forgetting with images
“Images and documentaries are very precious. The moment you begin shooting film, a possibility is created for people in the future to know and understand the past.”
Graduating with a master’s in 2013, Sun Hong returned to the campus six years later, to pursue a Ph.D in journalism and communication. For years, she witnessed great changes the media environment has undergone, which in her eyes pose higher requirements for humans to realize values that machines cannot achieve.
During the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, Sun Hong’s team produced an 18-minute non-profit documentary composed of 112 short videos, recording the real-life conditions of ordinary Wuhan people, whose inner fortitude and optimism inspire audiences.
“Image is the universal language in the true sense. I think it has the possibility to allow people of different cultures, different eras, and different regions to overcome prejudices and have the same emotional understanding,” Sun Hong says.
Song Ting, Alumna, School of Humanities
Contributing to digital civilization by humanities
“It is the technology that truly changes people’s way of life, and we must move closer to this new trend that will lead and change the future.”
As early as her undergraduate period, Song Ting co-founded one of the largest global hacker communities that organizes hackathons, focusing on cutting-edge technologies. With extremely diverse experiences, she cultivated a strong interest in open source culture and great enthusiasm for combining art and humanities in technologies.
“In the modern context, the integration of various forms of arts is a necessity,” she says. After graduating from Tsinghua, she engaged in crypto art, a category related to blockchain technology. She became the record holder of AI and blockchain art auctions in China last year.
This year, Song Ting wants to continue conducting integration of China’s intangible cultural heritage and emerging technology, publishing her science fiction-themed blockchain and AI, and directing the first immersive drama based on a domestic open source machine learning model.
Ye Binbin, Staff, Horticulturist
Turning a bare scene into a beautiful scenery
“I’m always happy and proud to see teachers and students walking through my ‘works’. Tsinghua University is rich in plant varieties and site types, which provides great room for me to grow."
Tsinghua’s beauty can be attributed to our creative and hardworking landscape gardeners. Having worked three years on campus as a horticulturist, Ye Binbin has been engaged in many campus revitalization projects, turning rundown places into scenic landscapes.
Following her own concepts, she hopes that her work can be both artistic and scientific. The plants not only give people a sense of beauty, but also conform to the characteristics and functions of different places. “When sketching a garden, I have to locate every single plant in my mind. Many times, I have to repeatedly overturn my ideas,” says Binbin.
Besides drawing sketches in the office, she often spends a lot of time outdoors working directly with the workers, with her hard work rewarded upon seeing her beautiful creations.
Julianne VanWagenen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tsinghua IWLC
Exploring the meaning of education
“I think education in the humanities is, philosophically, about learning to be open-minded, unlearning prejudice, and increasing radical empathy.”
After getting her bachelor's in English Literature and Italian from DePaul University in Chicago, Dr. VanWagenen lived in Italy for five years and then attended Harvard to pursue her Ph.D. She worked with Harvard’s metaLAB for four years, during which she published numerous articles/book chapters. Last summer, an Italian publisher selected her dissertation to publish as a book in 2022.
After coming to Tsinghua as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. VanWagenen has taught three courses related to world literature. Functionally, she regards it important to teach students to read and understand complex literature and seemingly simple media (like TV) and to write a good essay. “These practical aspects are important to the ethical goals. A good humanist should be a good able citizen, which means knowing how to listen and knowing how to engage and convince,” she says.
From her perspective, the highlight of her time in Tsinghua has been the students, whose earnestness leaves her deep impression. While she always tells university students to “remember that there is no rush to arrive at your future and there is no single correct future.”
Writer: Liu Zhaoxi
Editors: Sangeet Sangroula, Liu Shutian, Lin Yuan, Li Han