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【2015 Newly Elected Academician】Yu Dapeng: I am always curious about the Nano-world

JAN . 28 2016
Peking University, Jan 28, 2016: [Editor’s Note] Peking University News is publishing a series of interviews with newly elected fellows of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In this article, we look into how Yu Dapeng became fascinated with Nano-physics and how he enjoyed remarkable success in this field, which eventually led to his being elected as a Fellow in 2015.

Yu Dapeng is Professor at the Research Institute of Condensed Matter Physics and Material Science at the School of Physics, Peking University. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the East China University of Science and Technology. In 1985 he was awarded an M.A. at the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, China Academy of Sciences. He completed his doctoral studies at the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Paris Sud XI University, in 1993. In 2000 he was given funding by the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. He was appointed a Yangtze Scholar by the Ministry of Education in 2002. He has since been leading an innovation team focusing on “New low dimension functional Nano-structure and physics.” He was elected a Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2015.

How I Became Fascinated with Physics: Following My Heart

When asked about why he chose Material Physics as his lifelong career, Yu Dapeng simply said that it was a natural decision made according to his interests.

“At first I was studying Structural Materials such as glass and ceramics. Of course Structural Materials is an important direction, but I couldn’t find any inspirations. Gradually I found myself more interested in Functional Materials such as optics, electricity and magnetics. Since I started studying for my M.A., I was turning towards Functional Materials. I went to the Labortatoire de Physique des Solides at Paris Sud XI University. It had a strong background in Physics. At least two Nobel Prize winners (Pierre G. de Gennes, a winner in1991 and AlbertFert, a winner in 2007) came from that institution. In such an environment, I followed my heart and embarked on the road of Solid-state Physics until now.”

Reflecting on all his years of research, Professor Yu turned very emotional. “When I first came to Peking University in 1995, the conditions were very poor and we seriously lacked equipment. Everything had to start from scratch. Nonetheless, we did what we could. Even under such harsh conditions, as long as we worked hard we always had some impressive results. In recent years, Peking University has received a lot of support. Testing and processing technologies are advancing at a very fast pace. Our current research conditions are no worse, if not better, than those in Europe and America. The young generation are lucky to live in such great age.  I hope they will cherish these opportunities, develop innovative ideas and turn them into products rather than simply following the steps of foreign researches. We need to turn Nano-technology into products and contribute to national economic growth, hoping that China would influence the world with more innovative products.”

The Nano-world: It’s Fun

Professor Yu frequently mentioned the word “fun” during the interview. He reiterated, “I treat scientific research as something fun. I always keep a child’s curiosity in academics.”

Professor Yu is one of the first scholars to conduct researches in nanowire semiconductors. He was one of the leaders in developing a controlled process in the production of silicon and oxidized nanowire materials with the use of catalysts, hence heralding a new era in nanowire semiconductor researches worldwide. He revealed secrets behind novel Physics phenomenon such as the electro-mechanical and optical coupling in nanowire materials. He discovered various properties of nanowire materials and invented many Nano-processing methods. He was awarded a first prize in natural sciences by the Ministry of Education and a second prize in the National Award for Natural Sciences. According to a report by Elsevier, he was the second most cited Physics and Astronomy researcher in China in 2014.

“Our laboratory first started researching into nanowire in around 1996 or 1997, which is quite early in China. I began my research in this field when I was a short-term Visiting Scholar at the City University of Hong Kong. This interest continued when I returned to Peking University. We used pulsed laser deposition to obtain silicon nanowire by then. Later we developed a method to distill silicon nanowire. In recent years, our focus is on the electro-mechanical coupling of nanowire and the quantum transportation of low-dimensional material, such as the effect of clastic strain on nanowire semiconductors,” Professor Yu explained, “Our research relies heavily on electron microscopes. The laboratory makes use of modern techniques of electron microscopes, such as diffractometry, to understand the micro-structures of Nano-materials. We attempt to understand their growth mechanisms, and explore the relationship between the microscopic structures of materials and their physical properties.”

Apart from scientific researches, Professor Yu also teaches two courses. He has been teaching a school-wide course “Frontiers of Nano-technology” since 2004, and also a course on “Transmission Electron Microscopy” for graduate students. Professor Yu thinks that it is essential to develop the interests of his students. He considers his courses successful if the students regards the classroom as "fun." He also puts a lot of emphasis on students’ abilities to conduct experiments. So he always provides his graduate students with opportunities to go to the laboratory in addition to his classes. “I’m very delighted when I see many students in my class eventually take up scientific research as their lifelong careers partly due to my influence,” said Professor Yu.

Being Elected as a Fellow: It’s Only an Honor

Regarding the title of a “Fellow,” Professor Yu said that many people asked him how it felt like being awarded such a prestigious honor. “I said I don’t have any feelings. To me, the title of a Fellow is simply another honor among many honors. If there are any differences, I would say that there are more responsibilities on me.” However, he talked with ecstasy when he mentioned that he ranked among the best ten graduate student advisors last September. He said that, as a teacher, being recognized by his graduate students cannot make him happier.

“All honors are recognitions of the work you have done. So I need to work as hard as ever to live up to these accolades,” said Professor Yu.
Written by: XuLiangdi
Edited by: Li Ruiqi