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A Rising Star in Chemistry- Professor Zheng Nanfeng

XMUICE    Public:ICE    Datetime:2011/4/26

Like many other diligent teachers in the Xiamen University School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Professor Zheng arrives in his office in the Lujiaxi Building early in the morning and only leaves very late in the evening. He spends his days searching for latest research results from both China and overseas on multi-functional nano-materials, and in teaching students, both undergraduates and graduates, devoting his time and energy to working with his colleagues for the development and prosperity of chemistry in China.
Prof. Zheng was born in April 1977. He graduated with a BSc in Chemistry from Xiamen University in 1998, and left for the US in August 2000 to study for his PhD in Chemistry at UC Riverside, graduating in June 2005. He went on to post-doctoral research at UC Santa Barbara and then, in August 2007, having turned down an offer of an Assistant Professorship at UC Davis, Prof. Zheng returned to Xiamen University as a Specially Appointed Professor.

Higly accomplished scholar

Prof. Zheng´s research areas cover large chalcogen nano-structures and their assembly and structurally controllable nano-catalysts and bio-materials. His achievements are highly respected by fellow researchers worldwide. To date, he has had some 40 papers published in first-rank journals, including a cover paper in Nature, sixteen in Journal of the American Chemical Society, six in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, four in Chemical Communications, two in Chemistry of Materials, and others in journals of equal renown, such as Science.

Careful experimenter

Prof. Zheng declined the job offer from UC-Davis in order to join Xiamen University as he felt his research would contribute the development of the College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and its chemistry programme.
Prof. Zheng made the progression from being a student to becoming a teacher within a brief period of time. The project of one of the doctoral students under his supervision was chosen as an "Outstanding Doctoral Candidate Project", and many of his Master´s students have had papers published in well-known journals and magazines both Chinese and international.
He is a devoted and careful scientist who has influenced many of his students through his attitude to research, and whose approach to teaching imbues his students with new ideas and the ability to think independently. During his weekly teacher-student meetings, Prof. Zheng does not merely ask general questions on his students´ research goals, progress, current data and research results; rather he asks thought-provoking questions concerning their various research areas, and checks the validity of their experimental data. His seriousness and dedication to research makes him a role model for his students not only in terms of the exploration of science, but more importantly, but also in terms of responsibility and commitment.
Further to this, Prof. Zheng follows American practice in teaching his undergraduate courses. Some 100 students are attracted by the great quantity of the latest information and research results to join his courses in solid-state chemistry. However, only 20 or survive the intense pressure of his strict regime of evaluation based on attendance, and performance in class quizzes, writing papers and examinations and stick it out to the end. His classes are often occasions of heated discussion and the sharing and exchange of ideas.

A scholar with a sense of humour

On July 5th, 2010, for the first time, an event was held in a lecture hall on Zhangzhou Campus at which distinguished teachers of the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering were interviewed. Prof. Zheng was the first to be interviewed. The audience of nearly 200 students were deeply impressed by his easy-going attitude, wise but humorous language, and rich experience of life.
Prof. Zheng first spoke on the importance of the chemical sciences, which are of immense value to mankind, and encouraged the students´ appreciate the real beauty of chemistry. He gave the audience a taste of the delights of scientific research, creating a glamourous word-picture of an enthusiastic scientist; he impressed them with his abilities in independent research, his serious attitude to science, and his constant pursuit of perfection. While retailing anecdotes of his life, he raised a gale of laughter with a video of his college roommate, Lin Linchao.
Prof. Zheng believes that people should choose to pursue what they are capable of accomplishing, since no one can be a master of everything, that the key to scientific success is genuine interest and that the way to manage social relations is an essential that can only be learnt from society. Speaking from his experience of studying overseas, he told students that leaving China was merely the start of struggles and hard work to come; they should not think of going abroad to study as a chance to relax. The educational environment overseas was tougher, but the very competitive environment provided the impetus needed to achieve success. Finally, Prof. Zheng reassured the students about the strength of Xiamen University in research, and encouraged the undergraduates to pursue further development domestically, encouraging them to maintain their academic ambitions, enthusiasm and hope in confronting their future challenges.
Prof. Zheng´s wisdom and humour won rousing applause. In the Q&A session which followed, he answered each question with patience. He pointed out that essentially chemistry was an exploration of the unknown, and that the ultimate secret to success was dedication. He ended by encouraging the undergraduate students to be co-operative team players, to be independent thinkers, to be hard-workers and to become able scientific researchers.

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