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Interview with Dean Shan Xiaowen of Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department: Boost Education with Entrepreneurship

2016-08-31 05:01:10

He makes great contributions to developing and applying Lattice Boltzmann Methods. The classic Shan-Chen Model is named after him. Even more, he has made outstanding results in plasma physics, MHD and computer simulation of turbulent flow, etc. Because of his excellent work, he was elected in 2009 as the member of American Physical Society, APS. He also worked as software designer of Microsoft and Senior Supervisor in EXA of USA. In 2012, he was attracted back to China, as one in the Thousand Talents Program, to work in aviation development as Special Expert in COMAC and principal of BASTRI Pneumatic and Acoustics Research Team.

Prof. Shan Xiaowen is not only a scientist but a successful entrepreneur. In his eyes, exploration is the lifelong mission of scientists. And entrepreneurship represents the spirit of exploring the unknown and bravery of taking adventures. Nowadays he is in the community of education by working full-time in SUSTech and founding Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department. With great passion, Prof. Shan is ready to generate a new world.

In the interview, Prof. Shan Xiaowen, in a relaxed way, told about his education and career experience, and his general plan for building and developing the SUSTech Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department.

Climbing to the mountain top is glorious, but each step before that is ordinary

“I believe young people should not ‘admire’ someone because of his/her achievements. Instead, they should work hard to catch up or even outperform the person”, said Prof. Shan Xiaowen sincerely to the young people. “It’s just like mountain climbing. When one climbs to the mountain top, people would be amazed by the grandeur of the mountain. But before climbing to the top, each step is ordinary”. Prof. Shan Xiaowen told about his understanding of success in a calm and peaceful way.

In 1981, he ranked No. 2 in College Entrance Exam in Jiangsu Province and was enrolled in Peking University, Department of Mechanics, majoring in mechanics. In 1985, Prof. Shan was graduated as the Best Graduate in the Department. After graduating from Peking University as postgraduate, he went to USA for further study. Within 3 years, he obtained the doctoral degree in physics in Dartmouth College in USA. In 1991-1998, he engaged in post-doctoral study in Dartmouth College, School of Physics and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Non-linear Research Center. In 1998-2005, he worked as the software designer in Microsoft. In 2005-2012, he worked in EXA in USA as Senior Supervisor responsible for developing the advanced physical algorithm. Appealed by the “Chinese dream for large airplanes”, Shan Xiaowen decided to go back to China in 2012. EXA promised many things for Shan, who refused in a polite way and said, “I am young and want to do something meaningful”. So Prof. Shan returned to China, engaging in manufacturing the large airplanes in China and working as the principal of BASTRI Pneumatic and Acoustics Research Team. In 2015, Prof. Shan Xiaowen joined SUSTech and started to found Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department. Prof. Shan Xiaowen said, “Working in SUSTech is a new challenge for me. I have worked in the arena of industry for a long time and want to work in the education community. It’s just like mountain climbing. I simply want to climb mountains that were never climbed by others before.”
Cultivate students: theoretical “scientist” and “chief engineering designer”

The Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department just completed preparation not long ago and is still in the start-up phase. The next 5 years will see rapid growth of SUSTech. When talking about his plan of developing the Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department, Prof. Shan Xiaowen said, “The Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department actually contains 2 primary disciplines, e.g., mechanics and aviation & aerospace. The mechanics study focuses on science foundation, which is more like applied mathematics; aviation & aerospace highlights engineering and practice, which means manufacturing good airplanes.”

In the fundamental study, there are many excellent scientists in the faculty of Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department, who can provide good guidance for the students loving fundamental studies. In terms of aviation and aerospace, China is now in the phase of rapidly developing aviation and aerospace. There are many opportunities and a lot of work to do. Prof. Shao Xiaowen said the university will provide the students with more opportunities in aviation and aerospace. As a result, the students can choose to become scientists or chief designers.
Development plan: Rank Top 5 in China in 5-10 years

Prof. Shan was full of confidence when talking about plan of building and developing the Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department.

About faculty building, most of SUSTech professors in aerospace and related disciplines come from the industry arena, such as AVIC, COMAC and Boeing, etc. In light of this, Prof. Shan explained, “Professors with great industrial background know what industry arena needs and understand what things are useful”. Prof. Shan Xiaowen also said the Department would introduce more talents in the field of aviation and aerospace.

About research-industry-education integration, Prof. Shan Xiaowen plans to establish in SUSTech a company that provides technical service for the aviation and aerospace industry in China. In this way, SUSTech will become a window that connects the aviation and aerospace industry of China with advanced technologies in the world. He will work hard to build SUSTech a major research base of Chinese aviation and aerospace industry in South China.

Prof. Shan has his own ideas about development goals. He said, “I believe the success of the aviation and aerospace department in a university relies on what influence its students has on the society. Not only in the aviation and aerospace industry, but also in the education community, contributions made by university-cultivated students to the society are ultimate criteria of evaluation.”

“The short-term goal is to enroll the first batch of students in this September. The mid-term goal is to rank in Top 5 within 5-10 years.”, said Prof. Shan in smile.
Expectations for students

“At first, you have made a right choice to study in the Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department. Nowadays, aviation and aerospace industry in China is booming and developing rapidly. Hope the young people can seize opportunities and take challenges. Of course, laying a good foundation is very important. They should master the knowledge of mathematics and classical mechanics.”