People’s Daily: Beihang University Cultivating Top-notch, Innovative and Broad-minded Talents
People’s Daily reported (by journalist Zhao Enuo) on November 30, 2012
he report of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (hereinafter referred to as “NCCPC”) pointed out that we should “speed up the modernization of national defense and military ", "implement innovation-driven development strategy, deepen the reform of scientific and technological system and promote the integration of science, technology and economy. We should accelerate the construction of national innovation system, which focuses on building a technological innovation system with enterprises as the main body, market as the orientation and industry-university-research collaboration as its characteristics. We should also improve the knowledge innovation system through strengthening basic research, cutting-edge technology research and social welfare technology research. By doing so, the level of scientific research and the ability to transform achievements into real use could be improved, and the commanding heights of science and technology development strategy could be seized.”
Beihang University (hereinafter referred to as “BUAA”) as China's first aerospace institution of higher learning, has been providing an important intellectual and technological support to the modernization of our country’s national defense and military for many years. At the same time, it is also a pioneer in promoting an in-depth integration of science, technology and education, enhancing collaborative innovation, and combining science and education. This week’s journal will focus the practice and exploration of BUAA in cultivating top-notch talents for large projects.
【Ambitious talents should have high aspiration and profound vision】
Ten years ago in 2002, the bronze statue of Qian Xuesen seemed quiet and composed in front of the library of BUAA. The statue was placed in 2002. In September the same year, the HCBU was founded in BUAA, embarking on the journey of exploring how to cultivate excellent talents. It was also three years before the famous "Qian Xuesen question" At that time, only few universities carried out the highest level of engineering "top talent" training program in China.
Ten years later in 2012, the 18th NCCPC raised ardent expectations and solemn exhortations on scientists and educators. Then, a proposition was placed in front of the colleges and universities: how to study and implement the spirit of the 18th NCCPC, how to apply it to improving our skills in science, technology and education, and how to facilitate Chinese institutions of higher learning to achieve world-class education with Chinese characteristics?
BUAA used ten years to answer with practice, and will continue to use this practice to guide the university development after the 18th NCCPC. For example, firmly grasp the mainstream of teaching and cultivation students, boldly explore and practice, and focus on the nurture of top-notch and innovative talent for large projects. These attempts could be the implementation and practice of the spirit of the 18th NCCPC.
“Ambitious talents should have high aspiration, profound vision, broad minds and great personality”, said Hu Lingyun, the Secretary of the Party Committee of BUAA, “BUAA should always transform the spirit of 18th NCCPC into a huge force driving the scientific development of the university and cultivate ambitious talents for the large and important projects of national level”.
【With no ceiling, BUAA always meets students’ needs with a high-level platform】
At end of the 20th century, BUAA, through the analysis of national development strategy, began to realize that the top-notch talents with great leadership are the most needed group in the development of China. It is only BUAA that could be relied on to cultivate qualified high-end talent in aerospace, national defense and other high-tech fields. "The establishment of the HCBU is an important step for BUAA to cultivate qualified talents to meet the requirements of the China’s major development strategies." Zheng Zhiming, Vice President of BUAA and Dean of the HCBU said so when he was talking about the original intention of founding the School.
In BUAA, the HCBU was characterized by the principles of small-scale and high-standard. Every year, only 40 elites will be recruited by the School after two rounds of strict selection from nearly 400 students. "2 +2" model, namely "two years of basic education plus two years of professional education" is employed in the School. Under this training mode, the HCBU does not set up majors, and the lecturers are either recruited outside BUAA or from other Schools in BUAA. Students can choose more than ten courses such as Aviation and Aerospace Science, Electronic Information and Automation and Control as their major courses. The School also created a four-dimensional talent training model, which focuses on "generalized basic education, progressive professional education, open practice education, and autonomous development education", aiming to provide students with a quality-oriented education environment, to guide talented students Take the master of the road.
"Flexible" and "free" are the common feelings of students who are learning and researching here in the HCBU in BUAA. Whether it is course learning, internship practice, or comprehensive quality training, the School has broken through the conventional training model. "We do not set a ceiling for students. Therefore, we can always meet students’ needs with a high-level platform. Also, we do not build walls form students, providing them a more open environment to study and research." Zheng Zhiming said.
The flexible requirement for students’ credit provides opportunities for them to choose course and engage in research activities on the basis of their interests. Students can learn courses of other Schools’ in BUAA or even choose those in Peking University, Tsinghua University and other sister universities. This, to the largest extent, enables students to choose the best, the most needed, and the most personalized courses.
Zhang Bing, a Physics major of the 2006 class, spend four years learning seven specialized courses, both undergraduate and graduate, that have not been provided by BUAA, for example, the Forefront of Astrophysics in Peking University and Physical Cosmology in graduate school of the Chinese Academy of Sciences "This is not only due to the high demand of the laboratory for my physical and astronomical basis, but also my personal interest in Physics. These courses not only enrich my expertise, but also help me combine the mathematical knowledge with physical research. That is why I formed an in-depth understanding towards the link between mathematics and physics and the significance of some theoretical analysis.” Zhang said.
In the HCBU, a comprehensive quality-oriented education is the main content of cultivating talents. Zheng Zhiming introduced, "Our students are active thinking, the past top-down quality education cannot meet their requirements. The our School put forward a ‘self-lead development education’ mode, which designs various quality-oriented educational activities into projects, supplemented by certain funds or granted with some credits. Students can independently apply for the projects they are interested in or capable of. Through setting up teams and organizing activities, students themselves received a different kind of education and also trained their capability.
As expected, this educational concept has achieved remarkable results. Significant scientific and technological innovation such as "No.1 BUAA", "No.2 BUAA" sounding rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles have been achieved among the undergraduate students of BUAA. Currently, these innovations have been transformed into national key projects and major projects, many of which were partly contributed by students from HCBU, BUAA. Of all the graduates from HCBU, about 30% of them were admitted to the world's leading universities for a future education. More than 90% these graduates entered the provincial and ministerial scientific research laboratories, becoming the backbones of key research projects.
Graduated from the HCBU and directly studied for a doctorate for just one year, Shen Jing has become the leader of the analog integrated circuit design group, a national major project in the aviation electronics key laboratory. In her junior year of college, the laboratory she led already obtained a national invention patent with the sub-project "digital TV measurement receiver". Shen Jing was highly spoken of by her instructor Zhang Xiaolin, "What I have entrusted to her is not a pure communication project, but an interdisciplinary research project that relates to communications, microelectronics and other cross-field subjects. But her theoretical basis is very solid, that is why she can manage the cross-field research project both efficiently and effectively. "
Strengthening the mathematical and physical basis is another major focus of the student cultivation in the HCBU. "Only with a solid basis, can students grasp the essence of the problems encountered in the project and transform them into mathematical problems. We hope our students could solve the deep-routed cause of the problems and put the results into practical use, rather than focusing on an individual problem. Innovation is by no means a wild imagination, and only by vastly accumulating knowledge and expertise can students figure out where and how to innovate. Cross-field research is not a simple addition. Only by enriching the content of each subject can a real interdisciplinary research will be accomplished." This has become the consensus of the School.
Of course, in order to strengthen their knowledge reserve, students need to work harder and resist temptations. When their peers from other schools are busy finding “jobs” in various laboratories or working part-time, students of HCBU have always been roaming in the ocean of mathematics, physics, chemistry and other basic theoretical disciplines.
In the face of fickleness, students of HCBU choose to adhere to the respect for the basic theory. After a few years’ study, they realized that both the aircraft as a strategic high-tech product and the computers networks ubiquitous in the information age are complex and huge system engineering. They are the crossing and integration of a variety of technologies. The support behind this integration is mathematics, physics, and other basic disciplines.
"Mathematical theory is not only the basis of technology, but also a multiplier. If the basis improves by 1%, the technological innovation could improve by 10%. Almost all major innovations, especially the original one, are achieved on the basis of mathematics and physics." Zheng Zhiming said.
The teaching concept that focuses on strengthening the basic theory quickly presents some advantages. Compared with ordinary engineering students, students of HCBU have a deeper and better understanding towards the problem. They also know how to find the rules behind the problem. “In the first two years, the basic courses are of great amount and difficulty, but this kind of highly intensive training forces students to master learning methods.” Now at the research stage, students will not feel helpless when faced with the fields that are completely unfamiliar to them, because they have the ability and potential to acquire new knowledge with the methods grasped." said Li Qiaoyu, a 2006 student from the major of Electronic Information Engineering.
With the HCBU as the pioneer, BUAA also conducted a series of practices and explorations on the cultivation of top-notch innovative talents. For example in 2005 BUAA and the French Central Polytechnic University Group (FCPUG) co-founded BUAA-PCPUG engineering institute. Through drawing on the experience from French engineering education, this institute aims to cultivate high-end, world-class and top-notch innovative talents by combining the international standard for engineers with China's national conditions. In 2009, BUAA, together with the Institute of Mathematics and Systems Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences co-established a "Hua Luogeng Science Class ". Every year, 30 plus undergraduates and 10 plus doctorial students nationwide will be selected and co-cultivated in this class.
"Engineering education should have the concept of "large engineering". Modern engineers should become comprehensive talents with a broad vision." said Zuo Tieyong, an eminent material scientist and Academician of China Engineering Academy.
BUAA is exactly cultivating ambitious talents with broad mind through strengthening the liberal education and focusing on the multidisciplinary research and theoretical basis.
"With the spirit of the 18th NCCPC, we have to cultivate high quality talents with high-level scientific research. We should also relentlessly cultivate talents in the creation of knowledge and create knowledge while cultivating talents. We should recognize that innovation comes from a solid academic basis, and innovation requires the accumulation of knowledge. We should continue to reform the talent cultivation mechanism, which focuses on the "scientific basis, humanistic accomplishment, and practical ability” and establish a new dual-track mechanism that organically combines knowledge creation and talent cultivation.” said Huai Jinpeng, academician and the president of BUAA.
BUAA is still on the road of cultivating top-notch and innovative talents.