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【Interview】Dr.Yansun Yao---alumnus of BIT in U of S

release date :2013-11-30 03:32:19  |   [ close window ]ViewCount:

Writer: Marketing and Communications Team of  University of Saskatchewan, Canada   Michael Robin 
Editor: News Center of BIT  Zhao Lin

    While they may not shout out “is there a theoretical physicist in the house?” scientists from across Canada and around the world often end up at Yansun Yao’s office at the Canadian Light Source, seeking his help.

    “Theoreticians provide answers to the experiments,” said Yao, resident condensed matter theorist at the synchrotron. “The experiments give them data and they say ‘can you help us interpret this data?’ This is more the service aspect of what I do.”

    Yao’s own research centres on “computational materials discovery,” particularly with regard to the behavior of materials under high temperature and high pressure. He cites a familiar example: ordinary graphite is transformed by intense heat and pressure into diamond – and it stays diamond when the extreme conditions are removed.

    The idea is to use theory to predict properties and behavior of materials. One example is borane, a material that shows promise as a hydrogen storage medium.

    “For my PhD research, I was really inspired by the work of (U of S Canada Research Chair) John Tse,” Yao said. “He’s a great theoretician, and he showed me that theory’s very useful and can lead the experiments. I realized working with John, that you can actually do predictions.”

    Yao grew up in Beijing and studied at the Beijing Institute of Technology, completing his bachelor’s and Master’s degrees there before coming to the U of S for his doctorate while his wife, Hongbin Zhang completed her Master’s degree in economics. They moved to Ottawa where Yao worked for the National Research Council before returning to Saskatoon. Yao is now assistant professor position in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, while Zhang works in the Department of Economics.

    Now he is established in Saskatoon, Yao is also starting his academic teaching career with his first course, Applied Physics of Materials, a third-year undergraduate course.

   “I hope I can get them to think physics is interesting and keep some of them in physics,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

    As for graduate mentorship, Yao is actively recruiting Master’s and doctoral students in theoretical and condensed matter physics. He also maintains contact with faculty members at BIT, and in particular his former supervisor, Jian Zou.

   “I would contact him every time I got a new job, or a new baby,” Yao said (he and Zhang have two sons). “He was always happy to hear from me and very proud of me.”

    "BIT provided me with a very good fundamental education in mathematics and physics that prepared me for my graduate studies at the U of S,” Yao said. “That has been very important.”

    Yao hopes to build upon these personal ties to help strengthen the flagship partnership relationship between BIT and the U of S.

    “I hope with my efforts to attract good students here and good collaborators to the Canadian Light Source and to the University of Saskatchewan,” he said.

    The Canadian synchrotron is part of an international community which includes facilities all over the world, including three in China, at Beijing, Hefei, and Shanghai. Yao said by providing visiting scientists with strong support in theoretical physics, he can help strengthen these ties as well.

    “We do theoretical services for the users,” he said. “The users are from different universities in Canada and in other countries. We try to make the Canadian Light Source a better place to do experiments, and theoretical support is one way to do this.” 

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