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Professor of the Year Award Winner He Jiaqing Presents His Three Theories of Teaching

Sep 19, 2018 Latest News

In the 2018 SUSTech Teachers’ Day Awards, the Professor of the Year Award was first established. Deputy Dean of the College of Sciences and Professor of Physics He Jiaqing won the inaugural award. On Teachers’ Day, we interviewed Professor He Jiaqing and met a group of students who brought flowers to his office. The students said that on this special day, they wanted to give the most beautiful flowers and the sincerest blessings to their most beloved teacher. They thanked Prof. He for his care and teaching. For Prof. He Jiaqing, in the educational career, it is not only his students that are full of love and gratitude but also pondered deeply about preaching, teaching and confusing.

Gift for Teacher's Day

He Jiaqing said that the Professor of the Year Award is both a form of praise and an incentive to improve. It made him think seriously about the role of professor. He believes that a professor’s first duty is to teach. Whether it is to teach students to class, to spread professional knowledge, or to help students to lay a professional foundation, every level of teaching is important.

The second duty is to teach students to study and practice, and to teach people to "fish." Specifically for SUSTech students, Prof. He Jiaqing is cultivating the spirit of the students' exploration, by teaching systematic skills and encouraging innovative ideas by guiding scientific research.

He also believes that scientific research is also an important duty of professors. Professors have the responsibility to discover and create new knowledge through scientific research. This is a manifestation of teaching social responsibility.

Prof. He Jiaqing has made many scientific achievements. For many years he has been working on transmission electron microscopy, the physical properties and structural correlation of functional materials. He is also conducting research in related fields such as thermoelectric materials and devices, a field in which he has achieved a series of internationally influential results.

To date, more than 140 papers have been published in SCI journals, including more than 70 papers with influence factors greater than 10, such as Science and Nature. All papers have been cited by SCI journals for more than 9,000 times. He has been invited to make more than 20 reports at major international conferences such as the American Materials Institute (MRS) and the International Thermal Conference (ICT).

He won second prize at the Natural Science of the Ministry of Education, the leading talent of the “Pearl River Talent Program” of Guangdong Province, and the leader of the “Shenzhen Talent Peacock Program.”

Prof. He Jiaqing was more willing to share his thoughts and experiences about teaching and learning, compared to his remarkable scientific achievements. During the interview, his three theories of education were gradually presented to us, showing the educational thinking of the Professor of the Year in a three-dimensional manner.

Break Through The "Ceiling" And Guide Students To Surpass Themselves

Prof. He Jiaqing places great emphasis on interest orientation when it comes to university teaching. He believes that interest is the best teacher. During this period, students must find their true calling in order to generate continuous passion and overcome the difficulties. On the academic road, you will continue to break through and go further.

Speaking of this topic, He Jiaqing spoke with pride about recent SUSTech physics graduate Lu Qiangsheng, who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri. Prof. He Jiaqing recalled that Lu Qiangsheng was not a child with particularly high talent.

When Lu Qiangsheng was interviewed by the Shaanxi Admissions Team, Prof. He Jiaqing found a passion in this student. Although his college entrance examination scores and "631" scores are good enough, he had a clear passion for physics.

After coming to SUSTech, he relied on enthusiasm and research on physics knowledge. He plunged himself into the laboratory through frantically experimentation and even spent substantial amounts of time studying a problem.

In the end, his GPA scores were not outstanding, but he stood out among his classmates. He published the paper in the top journal "Physical Review Letter" as the first author and became the first undergraduate to have a paper published in this core journal. The results of all his ARPES experiments were independently obtained under the guidance of Professor Liu Chang, and his ARPES measurement of 600 K is rare in the industry. Lu Qiangsheng overcame a series of instrument stability problems during the experiments and showed his powerful instrument operation capabilities.

He also led a research group including graduate students and doctoral students. He successfully commissioned a laser ARPES instrument purchased by Nanjing University and received a lot of praise from professors and students of Nanjing University. Their commendations show the scientific literacy and hands-on ability of SUSTech.

Prof. He Jiaqing believes that only by being interested, students will be willing to study and constantly challenge their own ability, in order to break through and make new progress.

Cultivating Innovative Talents With Divergent Thinking

He Jiaqing believes that reform and innovation are rooted in SUSTech’s genes, and it is also true in training its personnel. Each of the SUSTech faculty members has a mission and an arduous task to cultivate the innovative talents, given the needs of the new era.

Speaking of innovation, He Jiaqing talked about questions from his history teacher. His teacher asked, "Who fired the first shot at the Huang Huagang Uprising?" The students answered “Huang Xing,” before being asked, "Who fired the second shot of the Huang Huagang Uprising?" The students still answered Huang Xing because it is known that he fired three shots. After listening to this, the teacher smiled, but He Jiaqing did not, and his expression was serious. "This reflects the current problems in education, as basic education instilled the model of the standard answer in the exam. This directly limits the students' thinking which affects the ability of free imagination and innovation. The goal of SUSTech is to train master students, so we have been thinking about and exploring how to cultivate top-notch innovative talents. After this fall semester, the university has made more progress."

The powerful driving force of scientific research lies in people's cognitive motives, specifically, curiosity and divergent thinking. He Jiaqing cherishes and respects students' curiosity in his teaching. He tries to get rid of the limitations of thinking, broaden the breadth and depth of thinking, and guide students to develop divergent thinking through questions and interactions. He Jiaqing explained that divergent thinking is an important indicator of the ability to measure innovation. It is manifested in a broad vision of thinking and a multidimensional divergence in thinking. "The questions I set are often without standard answers. Students can play as they like. As long as they are self-sufficient, the more open they are, the better they will be."

Pay Attention To Each Student Development

He Jiaqing believes that through the "6+3+1" admissions model, SUSTech has selected a group of students with solid foundations and excellent academic performances. In general, the overall quality of students at SUSTech is relatively high, and the degree of development of thinking, self-consciousness in learning, practical ability and innovative ability are good. However, it is undeniable that there are indeed some people in the class who need the guidance of a tutor.

He refers to this as the barrel effect. A barrel can only hold as much water as its shortest piece of wood. If there is a piece of wood in the barrel that is particularly short or there is a hole under a piece of wood, the barrel cannot be filled. Education is the same. Confucius once said that "there is no class in education," in that education should treat everyone equally and paying attention to the growth of each student.

There has been no shortage of students that have attended SUSTech under the advice of Prof. He Jiaqing. Among the students is 13-year-old genius Wang Jiale, who won the first-class scholarship in the first year, published academic papers during her time at SUSTech, and completed her undergraduate study tasks in only three and a half years. She has subsequently traveled to Oxford University to study for a Ph.D. The so-called Sunshine Girl learned well from Prof. He, by joining his tutor group, and served as a teaching assistant for his "Advanced Electron Microscopy" course during her junior year. She also received good research training and gained valuable experience as an undergraduate student. As a result, she has continued her postgraduate studies at the California Institute of Technology, where her broad vision and innovative qualities of SUSTech’s traits have been highly recognized by many teachers.

 “Teaching a good student requires a lot of effort. Teaching a student who has some problems often requires double or even multiple efforts. Some teachers have difficulties in teaching students, but this is the responsibility of professors.” He Jiaqing said, “When a student that struggles is able to graduate successfully and achieve the same results as other students, the satisfaction is far greater. On the outside, it appears that every student starts at the same position and finishes in the same place. Behind this, only the students, the faculty members, and the parents know how much effort we have put in together."

"Young people are the most malleable and can be guided by their own achievements." He Jiaqing gave an example. A student he had previously had a very good score in the college entrance examination and was among the first students to be admitted to SUSTech. However, after entering the university, he was separated from the high-pressure control of his parents.

He began to indulge himself and became addicted to playing games. He skipped classes and disappeared for periods at a time. He did not respond to text messages or answer phone calls. His parents were anxious, thinking that the teachers did not care for their child. As an academic tutor in his physics major, Prof. He Jiaqing tailored a transformation plans for this student. He often talked with him, learned about his study and life, and set up a special seat next to the research assistant. Specific individuals accompanied him for a variety of activities including reading novels, in order for him to gradually overcome his gaming addiction and conducting a normal learning life. Then, he began to downgrade his indulgence in video games from more than ten hours a day to five or six hours, then to an hour or two, until he eventually gave up video games. He began to use his mind and energy for education and study. After graduating from SUSTech, he began to look for a job. After a year of hard work in society, he sought a change, and under the guidance and encouragement of Prof. He, he took the GRE to continue his physics studies.

"From recruiting him to SUSTech, to helping him overcome his addiction, and then to teach him how to adapt to the university stage of learning, I was there for him. Now he has embarked on an ideal academic path, I watched him experience hardships and grow up, in the knowledge that every step is actually not easy."

Life is not easy for students or professors. As a mentor, Prof. He Jiaqing has devoted a lot of effort to his students. In addition to giving professional guidance to his studies, he is also particularly concerned about the mental health of young people. He has also studied psychological counseling, empathy, and answered questions for his classmates. He Jiaqing believes that in addition to accumulating knowledge in the university stage, it is more important to learn how to be a positive person. The problem of learning can be solved with a positive and good attitude, and the road to the future will be more stable. In the hearts of many students, Prof. He Jiaqing is not only a master of outstanding scientific research but also a rare professor who is also a friend.

After the interview, a graduate student came to find Prof. He to discuss some problems with their research paper. He Jiaqing immediately started talking with the student. At SUSTech, scholars like Prof. He Jiaqing are available to every student, at your fingertips, at any time to answer questions and solve their doubts. Prof. He Jiaqing is a blessing for students on education at SUSTech, and this is why he won the first Professor of the Year Award.

Interview: Liu Hui, Tong Xiaojin

Text: Liu Hui

Translated and Adapted: Chris Edwards

Proofread: Xia Yingying

Photo: Zhang Xiaoyan

Main picture design: Qiu Yu

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