Is a universally recognized academician as serious in demeanor as he is in his research? How did the academician, Professor Zhuang grow from a freshman to a leading scientist in the field of optical research? What kinds of ambiguities and questions did the freshmen have about their majors? On the afternoon of November 23, Professor Zhuang Songlin, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Dean of the School of Optical-Electrical and Computer Engineering of University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, together with his five teammate professors, gave all the freshmen of 2018 an orientation class on academic research.
A number of distinguished professors joined the orientation class. In addition to academician Zhuang, Professor Zhang Dawei of the Ultra-precision Optical Team, Professor Zhu Yiming of the Terahertz Spectrometer Imaging Team, Professor Zheng Jihong of the Medical Optical Team, Professor Guo Hanming of the Nano-photonics Team and Professor Liu Yi of the Ultra-fast Non-linear Optical Team were also the key speakers. They came to the stage one after another to explain to students with vivid examples of their interests, to motivate the students in their future academic research and to boost the curiosity of the students in the field of Optics. Academician Zhuang gave concluding remarks and delivered a speech on the theme of his motto "Aim is higher than heaven, and feet are down-to-earth".
Professor Zhuang gave a brief introduction to students about his life, education and research career, hoping to enlighten the student in their future academic lives. Mr. Zhuang first talked about his school experiences. At the age of 16, he was enrolled in the Physics Department of Fudan University. During his undergraduate years, he was forced to suspend school for 9 months because of tuberculosis. During the period of his suspended studies, he insisted on self-study at home. When he returned to school, he was supposed to stay in the same grade. Professor Zhuang didn not want to graduate one year late. So he asked his professor to allow him to take the exams as usual. The result is that he got five A-pluses on the five exams he took. He successfully kept up with the class and eventually graduated on time. Academician Zhuang, through his own efforts, programmed the Spectral Calculation of the Central Spectrometer in Fudan University in 1963, which was planned to be completed in 10 months, and completed the task in two hours to get the correct results. That reinforces his belief that with efforts you can be someone in whatever position you choose to take.
Academician Zhuang persisted in going to the library to read books every day after work and relentlessly taught himself mathematics and English, which laid a solid foundation for his future studies in the United States. In the United States, it took less than two years for him to get his PhD at the State University of Pennsylvania, a record in time for getting a PhD in the State University of Pennsylvania. During his two years’ study there, 32 academic papers were published. Academician Zhuang Songlin used his life experiences to tell freshmen present that “insisting on learning is always right, for there will always be a chance to have what has been learned to be used”. Academician Zhuang also reminded the students of the importance of bringing useful talents for the country and society, and the fact that what kind of talents they use, to some extent, are subject to the society and the environment, but mainly are attributable to their personal efforts. The students were deeply impressed by professor Zhuang’s tenacity and perseverance in research. It is these qualities that helped him make today's accomplishments possible. "Aim is higher than heaven nd feet are down-to-earth." This motto belongs to Academician Zhuang all all times, and it is also his motto of encouragement to the freshmen.
Referring to undergraduate teaching reform, Academician Zhuang encouraged students to "develop reading habits, read one book intensively, read thick books until they are thin for you, and cultivate broad interests and a team spirit". Academician Zhuang believed that the most important thing in university was to master these basic concepts. He did not advocate reading many reference books. Instead, he suggested reading one book intensively, understanding every sentence in the book, and asking the teacher when he did not understand. Textbooks should be read, as should a number of other humanities books, as well. Reading books is beneficial. Through reading, we can cultivate our learning ability and have good learning methods. Later on, during one’s career, the work might not necessarily be matched with what we had learned previously, but the method will always be there. In addition, he also encouraged students to cultivate innovative ability. Given any assignment, even homework exercises, one should think about whether there is a unique way to solving problems, thus, cultivating one’s creativity in a habitual way.
Academician Zhuang's rigorous and earnest attitude towards scientific research and his stunning life experiences are all convincing. After the class, the students expressed that they would take Academician Zhuang as an example in their studies and their life. They avowed to follow his unremitting learning spirit and healthy attitude towards life to gain greater academic achievements in their future lives, and to be a person of ambition and noble character. Academician Zhuang concluded his lecture with the following remarks: “In the next four years of study, I hope you can actively discuss question and problems with your teachers and fellow students, help each other and pursue a win-win strategy in order to become a pillar in building our country!