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Interview with Chair Rong Yiming of Mechanical and Energy Engineering: Innovation is very important for Mechanical Engineering


His research fields include precise processing technology, mechanical & physical performance control of metal materials, computer aided tool technology, CAD/CAM integration technology. In 1995, 1998 and 1999, he chaired sub-meeting in the annual conference of ASME and chaired the sub-meeting in 2009 ASM annual conference. Because of his outstanding R&D work, he won the title of ASME FELLOW for 2004. In 2003, he received the title of Excellent WPI Professor in US for his research contributions. In 2010, he engaged in research in Tsinghua University as the professor in Thousand Talents Program. Now he is working in SUSTech, pulling the curtain of SUSTech Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department. 

And he is Prof. Rong Yiming, Chair of SUSTech Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department. Realizing the importance of education, he emphasizes on innovations and advocates putting innovative thinking into engineering practice. It is believed that his involvement will instill the original dynamics into the university. When interviewed by the journalist, Prof. Rong showed his eloquence by elaborating on current development of Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department and introducing in general to the target and future outlook of the Department. 

 

What is mechanical engineering?
“Mechanical engineering constitutes foundation of national economy by serving all industries. At the same time, it is also the key point of comprehensive national strength competition”, responded Prof. Rong Yiming when asked what mechanical engineering is. 
Prof. Rong said, for some time in the future, mechanical engineering will shift from traditional type to intelligent structural development while integrating closely with forefront fundamental sciences. Nowadays, manufacturing industry is having higher requirements for precision and functions. And people are also demanding smaller dimension under their control. As a result, manufacturing industry is closely related to forefront sciences. But at the same time, there are also many technological challenges in it. In his eyes, engineering science should develop in 2 major directions. First, engineering should realize science-oriented development, which lays foundation for future technological development. Second, it should develop towards innovation orientation. Prof. Rong emphasizes an object shows its value only when it is used in life of the people. Only by fully understanding the needs can we develop objects that push forward economic and technological progress. And people working on engineering should utilize innovations to meet needs of the society. “SUSTech is an innovative university. So we should apply what we have learned and developed in the actual life”. In the eyes of Prof. Rong, mechanical engineering is the field where innovations happen, which in turn are very important for mechanical engineering. 


Discipline direction: plan 3 directions and hope to cultivate world-class team and students

About development of SUSTech Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department, Prof. Rong Yiming outlines 3 major discipline directions. 
The first direction is robots and automation. In this discipline direction, robots are highlighted while vigorously developing intelligent mechanics, which will lay solid foundation for next industrial revolution. The second direction is innovative design and advanced manufacturing. Prof. Rong points out all good innovations start with design. “We demand it when having the original design idea. It is necessary to consider the manufacturing and market needs in the process of design because it is the start of value chain. And this will reach advanced manufacturing technologies, e.g., 3D printing technology is a typical example. Progress in manufacturing means provides a very large stage for design innovations”. The third direction is energy engineering. “Fuel battery, solar battery and energy management are must-be fields in the future, which are the forefront directions in the rapid development of industry and sci-tech”. In addition to the 3 directions mentioned above, he also hopes SUSTech professors and students can collaborate and realize inter-disciplinary development so as to seek unique progress in some special technological fields in the 3 directions. At the same time, he also expects to cultivate world-class research teams and graduates. 


Faculty recruitment: possess R&D capacity and love education & teaching
According to Prof. Rong Yiming, Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department was just started and recruitment ads have been publicized, hoping to attract more and better teachers from all parts of the world. “SUSTech is positioned as a world-leading research university. So we adopt the regular employment system and follow recruitment standards of first-class overseas universities. When recruiting teachers, we emphasize on R&D capacity while considering how teachers love education and teaching.”
Besides, Prof. Rong also points out he hopes to define a few research orientations when recruiting teachers so as to attract more senior professors. At the same time, he also says personal achievements or Thousand Talents Program is not the sole factor to be considered. Instead, more focus will be placed on potential of the candidate teachers so as to instill unremitting dynamics into the University. 

Student cultivate: Knowledge is important; and “doing things” is also highlighted
Prof. Rong Yiming tells us these days the Department is working on plan of cultivating undergraduates and postgraduates. He hopes the plan can help students develop solid foundation in basic courses. At the same time, he also hopes great flexibility is shown in discipline direction. In other words, students can realize personalized development by considering their strong points, features and interest. In addition, he also mentions a few other points which he believes are very important. 
“I hope in this autumn we can open the course of introduction to mechanical engineering to tell the students what engineering and mechanics are. We also plan to give the opportunities to sophomores so that they try and see in person what mechanical engineering is. No matter what you want to manufacture, if only you have good ideas and make applications, we will give you the opportunity.”
Prof. Rong says engineering practice is very important, which can help activate the students’ independent thinking. He hopes SUSTech students can get used to working when they have not possessed complete knowledge structure. At the same time, the students should have self-study ability and spirit of cooperation. Besides, he also mentions his initial ideas about inter-disciplinary development. Prof. Rong hopes to create a large environment so that people in different directions of development can work together and promote mutual understanding, enlighten the thinking and make study deeper. At the same time, when talking about the Department’s support for innovation and entrepreneurship, he proposes his unique ideas. 
“Our understanding of innovations is not limited to entrepreneurship. All products have an S curve. In the beginning it is called creation. When it quickly develops, it is called innovation. I propose practical teaching by considering actual corporate issues. Only in practice will students know how to start with an issue and make it clear. We come to study in the university because, first, we wish to learn some expertise; second, we want to learn how to ‘do things’. ‘Doing things’ is not closely related to disciplines. It refers to how to define an issue, how to communicate with others and how to organize a team, etc.”
Prof. Rong says we should work hard to ensure “dual standards and external different from internal”. To be specific, we should not only compete against other Chinese universities and meet domestic evaluation indicators. At the same time, we should establish our own features. 

SUSTech is much better than I expected
“I knew President Zhu 5 or 6 years ago. Since then, I have started to pay attention to SUSTech because I like new things. Later on, Mr. Chen became SUSTech President. After discussing with him about education philosophy, I believe the university is very attractive. I cherish most the development space granted by SUSTech because I can use my own ways to make research and develop disciplines in the Department. This is the most attractive point for me. After coming to work in SUSTech, I have met with many surprises and encouragements. In other words, SUSTech is much better than I expected.”
Prof. Rong Yiming is very moved by the surprises he has harvested since working in SUSTech. He says the administration in SUSTech serves education and teaching, which is rarely seen in China. It also ensures SUSTech is full of dynamics in education. He also mentions the atmosphere in SUSTech is not matched by most Chinese universities. 90% of SUSTech teachers come back from overseas countries and the university has wonderful atmosphere of free academic exchanges. And the third point that impresses him most is that he was reached, before taking his post, by a sophomore, who intended to make racing cars. He felt greatly encouraged and had greatest confidence. “All sophomores in universities work hard for scores. And SUSTech students show wonderful independent thinking, revealing they are not here for fashion because mechanics is no fashion at all. But what they want to do is in the forefront and what they want to learn is valuable. Such independent thinking is very very valuable.”
Prof. Rong hopes SUSTech will become a “clean place” in the future and stay composed when the society is blundering. At the same time, it can provide people with space, who have their own characteristics and would not blindly follow trend. 

Words for SUSTech students
“Value of SUSTech students lies in their independent thinking. We hope our graduates have their own ideas and thinking, but not blindly following trend. Students can work hard to identify what they like and what they want to do. They can establish their various characteristics in different fields so as to have better development space.”