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2010-01-06 01:10 学术科研 ⁄ 共 8332字 ⁄ 字号 暂无评论


Dear Xiao-Fan and Min,
Greetings from Beijing! I had wanted to attend the 2009 CBIS conference in San Diego but had to cancel my flight reservation due to a tough personal situation.
Although this email is addressed to the two of you, please feel free to share the content with attendees of the 2009 CBIS conference.
I am writing to congratulate the CBIS conference, to update my situation in Beijing, to ask for reinforcement, and to thank my friends and colleagues for your generous support!
First, my warmest congratulations to the CBIS conference!
CBIS, formerly known as the Ray Wu Society, has been in existence for more than 11 years. During this period, the number of Chinese biological investigators, particularly those in the US, has enjoyed a dramatic expansion. Although CBIS has played a constructive role in research and education in China during the last decade, the extraordinary strength of our overseas membership has yet to be adequately reflected at the levels of science policy consultation and research infrastructure overhaul. At the historic moment of China’s development, there is an increasing and compelling need for CBIS to speak out in China. Compared to other professional organizations in China, the “non-partisan” stance of CBIS should be able to minimize, if not eliminate, potential conflicts of interest in policy advising to various Chinese government agencies.
Second, a brief summary of my experience in China.
I formally resigned from the Princeton faculty at the end of 2008, after an eventful, one-year leave of absence. My wife Renbin quit her position at Johnson & Johnson, sold our Princeton house 7 months ago, and brought our twins Shirley and Chris to join me at Tsinghua. The family re-orientation began in June 2009.
After arriving in Beijing for one week, Chris raised his first serious question, “daddy, why there are no birds in the sky?” I struggled to explain the unanticipated question…. Ten days later, Chris frowned again, “I don’t like Beijing anymore.” “Why?” “Because cars are parked everywhere, and people are walking in car lanes.” I appreciated my 5-year-old son’s observations!
Thankfully, the adaptation process has been relatively smooth, at least for the kids. While Renbin is still looking to restart her career, Shirley and Chris have fully adjusted to and are enjoying the new environment of Beijing. They are both enrolled in the Kindergarten of Tsinghua University, with 8 AM to 6 PM professional care, three meals and two snacks a day, and lots of fun activities. By the way, I do think the kids are happier at Tsinghua than at Princeton.
The story of myself is a bit complex, despite the fact that my overall conclusion about coming back to China is extremely positive. I encountered many interesting “accidents”, some joyful and others agonizing, which I wish to write into my biography after the impact of these stories fades away.
Before my return, I knew the media in China would be intrigued by my return to Tsinghua. But the ferocity of the interests, especially those from the blogosphere, caught me off guard. In summer 2008, I was attacked, sometimes by real persons but mostly anonymously, for applying for the “Outstanding Young Scholar Award” from the National Natural Science Foundation of China. The reason for the attack was quite simple – I was accused of applying for the award in violation of the Rules. I don’t think I need to explain this painful and unjustified episode to my colleagues here – fact already speaks for itself!
Research is going stronger than ever. Before returning to China, my innermost worry was whether the students at Tsinghua could perform up to the standards of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at Princeton. The reality proved that my worry was unwarranted. I began to build my Tsinghua lab from scratch in late 2006 and my lab became fully operational in April 2007 – the first PCR reaction and the first SDS-PAGE were performed! I spent 6 months at Tsinghua in 2007 to train the first batch of students and technicians. In February 2008, I returned to Tsinghua full-time and spent nearly 10 months during that year to continue to train the students and technicians. By now, more than one dozen students have become sophisticated scientists and are able to critically design and analyze experiments. To my relief and satisfaction, research output from my Tsinghua lab in 2009 already exceeded that from my Princeton lab at its pinnacle in 2006, with 3 structural studies on membrane proteins (2 in Nature and 1 in Science) and a number of other worthwhile discoveries.
As some of you know, I am now in charge of the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University. After several rounds of discussion, I also agreed to lead Tsinghua’s burgeoning Medical School, at least for the next one or two years. Along with the appointments, the administrative burdens have become almost unbearable. But I feel motivated from the bottom of my heart, because my time invested in these two schools may help transform the life science community here at Tsinghua and the soft mechanisms initiated here might be exemplary elsewhere in China.
During the last two years, I have spent most of my administrative time on faculty recruitment. We interviewed more than 60 faculty candidates in 2008 and 2009 and made approximately 29 offers. 22 of the 29 selected faculty candidates have chosen to accept Tsinghua’s offer, and 15 have already established their independent laboratories here. Tsinghua plans to recruit 110-130 independent PIs in biomedical sciences within the next 5-10 years. So we’ve got a lot to do in the coming years! I also spent a fair amount of time to revamp the personnel system, and with tremendous support from my colleagues here, we have instigated a system-wide tenure-track system in the School of Life Sciences. In addition, we have begun to deal with curriculum training for both undergraduate and graduate students. With support from the Ministry of Education, Tsinghua, Beida, and NIBS have joined forces to establish an integrated graduate program that promises to innovate graduate student training in China. The arrival of a large number of motivated young faculty members will greatly facilitate educational reform.
I feel physically exhausted but mentally excited.
No matter how busy I am, I have tried my best to ensure that at least half of my total time is spent on research in the lab. My passion for research and the fun in the lab cannot be substituted by achievement of any other kind. To meet the half-time goal, I have declined most administrative meetings, manuscript review requests, and public appearances, and I have shortened my average sleep time to less than 6 hours a day for the past two and a half years. To maintain adequate energy during the day, I resumed exercise and relied on coffee. Reduced sleep also helps me maintain a slim physical shape despite voracious appetite! (There are LOTs of fantastic restaurants in Tsinghua vicinity!)
There is one thing for which I usually do not restrict my time – advising the government ministries for sound policies together with trusted colleagues. Unfortunately, our voice has yet to truly reach the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Natural Science Foundation, which manage the bulk of research funds in China. I am thankful to the Ministry of Education, which has asked for my opinion from time to time on relevant matters. I am grateful to the United Front Work Department (统战部), which relayed our write-ups to senior Chinese leaders, and the Department of Organization (中组部), which listened to our view on recruitment of overseas scientists.
Third, I would like to ask for reinforcement. The best form of reinforcement is your service to China, with the same set of moral principles you uphold while in the US.
There are unprecedented opportunities in China – en route to full-fledged revitalization and modernization. Transitions in China can be felt daily in every corner of the society. This is exciting! This is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity for you to become associated with the changes. Aren’t you thrilled about the scenario that you may play an important role here to accelerate these changes?
I believe that, in science and research, we should have the same set of moral and ethical values in China and in the US. Thus it is both surprising and disappointing that some of my colleagues have fully adapted to the local Chinese culture upon their return and began to perpetuate some of the unwritten, detrimental cultures in the science and research community in China for which they would refute in the US. Fortunately the majority of the returnees have stood firm behind the values they once were familiar with.
Fourth, I would like to thank you for your generous support throughout the past three years!
Many of you have given me tremendous help over the years. Xiao-Fan, Bai Lu, Ding Xue, Xiangdong, and Xiaodong, in particular, have consistently encouraged me to go on. I also wish to thank Min Li, Haifan, Hong Wu, Ting Xie, Lin Mei, and many others for your support! Whenever I feel frustrated, I think of you as a virtual source of support for balance and rejuvenation. Thank you!
Last but not least, I wish to thank Yi Rao at Peking University for his camaraderie. I only got to know Yi well after the 2005 CBIS meeting in Boulder, Colorado. I feel very fortunate to have Yi next door to listen to my complaints, to share experiences and thoughts, to discuss matters of common interest, to collaborate on essay writing, and to party and dine together!
Okay, I feel I have told you everything about my experience in China – briefly! If you want to know more, you will need to come to Tsinghua – always welcome!
I wish you a complete success for the CBIS conference.
Happy New Year!
With my best wishes for 2010 and cheers,