Dialogue between laureates and teen scientists at WLA Sci-T Conference
Date: 2020-11-01
Source: WLA Forum
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Forum · Record

The WLA Sci-T Conference was held at the Shanghai International Convention Center on the evening of October 31. Representatives of laureates, education experts, representatives of primary and secondary school principals, and teen scientists gathered together to talk about youth science education.

Roger David Kornberg, Chairman of the World Laureates Association, Michael Levitt, Vice Chairman of the World Laureates Association, Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, winner of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research in 2015, attended the conference; John Edward Hopcroft, winner of the Turing Award in 1986, participated in the conference online over the Internet. Four laureates, Xin Bing, Director of the Children & Youth Science Center, China Association for Science & Technology, Chen Yukun, one of the first tenured professors of East China Normal University and Director of the National Training Centre for Secondary School Principals (NTCSSP) of the Ministry of Education, Wang Dianjun, principal of Tsinghua University High School, principals of dozens of well-known primary and middle schools in China, and more than 50 teen scientists selected from across the country had heated discussions and exchanges.


WLA Sci-T Conference group photo  Photo provided by WLA Forum

Wang Hou, Executive Director and Secretary General of the World Laureates Association, delivered a speech at the conference. “Science determines the future of mankind, and youth determines the future of science,” he said, emphasizing that supporting the growth of the youth is one of the three missions of the World Laureates Association. The WLA Forum attaches great importance to science education and looks forward to building a stage that for the teen scientists to have lively interactions with accomplished scientists and be inspired about the future development of science.


Wang Hou delivers a speech Photo provided by WLA Forum

Afterwards, John Edward Hopcroft, Xiaoliang Sunney Xie and Michael Levitt respectively shared their scientific research experience and life stories, and had a cordial interaction with the teen scientists in the Q&A session.

John Edward Hopcroft gave three important suggestions to the teen scientists present through video. First of all, he encouraged them to ask themselves: What do I like? What do I have a lasting interest in? If you can persevere and enjoy your passion, you will become the luckiest candidate when the opportunity comes.

Second, an inspiration from the “butterfly effect” is that a small matter in our daily life may have a huge impact on others, so don’t underestimate your own ability to influence others. Third, John Edward Hopcroft summed up his life experience and told the teen scientists that the most important thing in one’s life is not how much money he makes, but how much he contributes to the world; and don’t forget to enjoy the process all along.


John Edward Hopcroft attended the conference via the internet  Photo provided by WLA Forum

Xiaoliang Sunney Xie told about his life and learning experience. He once studied in Peking University and after graduation, traveled across the ocean to do research on single-molecule biophysical chemistry in the United States, where he observed the dynamic reaction process of the first enzyme molecule. Scientific research has brought him a strong sense of happiness.

In 2008, Xiaoliang Sunney Xie brought his kid back to China to watch the Olympics. He was extremely excited that China won the most medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics, but at the same wished that China will win gold medals in scientific research, which depends on the efforts of generations of Chinese scientists.

Xiaoliang Sunney Xie further introduced the important applications of single-cell genomics in IVF, COVID-19 genomic sequencing, and the development of drugs for COVID-19 treatment. He also hoped that more teenagers will fall in love with science, which he has always loved.


Xiaoliang Sunney Xie giving a speech Photo provided by WLA Forum

To make the teen scientists have a better understanding of his speech, Michael Levitt thoughtfully translated his PowerPoint files into Chinese. He talked about his experience of how he grew up from a child to a scientist, especially how to get a clear understanding of a research field before making great contributions to it.

In Michael Levitt’s view, extensive research in basic science is the stepping stone to original scientific research achievements. Michael Levitt encouraged the teen scientists to be full of passion, have perseverance, be adventurous, not being afraid of make mistakes, and be a kind person.


Michael Levitt giving a speech Photo provided by WLA Forum

In the Q&A session, the teen scientists asked the laureates about “interdisciplinary integration,” “the value of theoretical research,” “the impact of scientific and technological development on school education,” and “how do the youth balance study and scientific research,” and the laureates answered these questions one by one.

In the session, Michael Levitt further explained “luck,” which he mentioned many times in his speech. He said that luck actually means inclusiveness and openness. Life is constantly changing and full of opportunities. As long as you can always embrace and accept them, nothing is bad for you.

The students learned from the wisdom of laureates, and representatives of teen scientists also shared their scientific research ideas and scientific spirit. Inspired by the movie The Wandering Earth, Tang Jie from Xiamen Foreign Language School conduct a study on “Simulation of the Accretion of Roche-lobe Binary Stars Between Jupiter and Earth” under the guidance of a professor at Xiamen University. This is a great example of how a child carries out scientific research based on the imagination about interstellar crossing.


Teen scientist Tang Jie Photo provided by WLA Forum

Wu Juntao from Shanghai High School dreamed of becoming a witch when she was a child. Unsurprisingly, she fell in love with chemistry in middle school. Apart from participating in the research of the “Copper-based Catalyst Derived from Waste Electronic Materials for the Reduction of Electrochemical Carbon Dioxide,” Wu Juntao also takes the popularization of science as her responsibility and actively communicates the value of science to the people around her and communities.


Teen scientist Wu Juntao Photo provided by WLA Forum

During the speech session by the principals of top middle schools, Wang Dianjun, principal of Tsinghua University High School, Li Zhicong, principal of No.2 High School of East China Normal University, and Yi Guodong, principal of Chengdu NO.7 High School, respectively shared their schools’ unremitting efforts and remarkable achievements in science education and training of scientific and technological talents.

Principal Wang Dianjun said: “More than ten years ago, I was a professor of mathematics. As is known to all, there is no Nobel Prize in mathematics. So, I chose to become a principal of middle school, hoping to cultivate China’s Nobel Prize winners in the future.” If we start to strengthen youth science education from now on, this dream may come true in 50 years.


Principal Wang Dianjun of Tsinghua University High School Photo provided by WLA Forum

Chen Yukun, one of the first tenured professors of East China Normal University, said with satisfaction and excitement that seeing the infinite potential of the kids at the conference, he was filled with confidence in the future of China’s science and technology development as an educator.


Chen Yukun, one of the first tenured professors of East China Normal University  Photo provided by WLA Forum

In the end, Roger David Kornberg made a conclusion talk of the conference and expressed his expectations. He recognized the importance of learning from the experience of seniors, but also emphasized the importance of imparting the “critical spirit” to the teen scientists. The rebellious spirit of “not listening to others” may open up more possibilities on the road of scientific research 

He also summed up the true meaning of science education: the success of education is not about how much knowledge students remember, but instead about stimulating their interest in subjects–this is the benchmark. “Science may not be interesting, but it is well worth your exploration.” Roger David Kornberg encouraged them with the important things his father taught him. We hope that the teen scientists will devote themselves whole-heartedly to science with love and innovation.


Roger David Kornberg made a conclusion talk of the conference and expressed his expectations   Photo provided by WLA Forum

WLA Sci-T Conference brings together the advantageous resources of both parties to create a new training and exchange platform for future young scientific talents, and jointly promote youth science education.