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Always True to the heart and Forever Young ——An interview with Hui Deng, assistant professor from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, South University of Science and Technology

Personal profile:
Dr. Deng Hui, receiving his Ph.D. of Precision Science and Technology at Osaka University in Japan in February 2016, now is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology. After graduation, he joined the Processing Technology Group of the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology as a research scientist (Research Scientist), and carried out theoretical research and industrial applications on topics such as plasma-assisted processing and electrochemical mechanical polishing. Since July 2017, he has worked for the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering of SUSTech, devoting himself to establish the Advanced Plasma Manufacturing Lab (APML). As an academic researcher, he has hosted a number of research projects in Japan and Singapore, as well as having many papers published in the manufacturing's top magazines International Journal of Machine Tools and Manufacture and CIRP Annals-Manufacturing Technology. Moreover, he has made three oral presentations in all at the CIRP General Assembly (in 2013, 2014 and 2015).
 


——Pioneering and innovative, the spokesman of SUSTech

The first time I met Prof. Deng, I was impressed by his enthusiasm that is totally different from the serious image of the scientific researchers in the traditional recognition. Before we started to interview, he firstly asked about our campus life with concern and fully praised the unique education system of South University of Science and Technology. “I think the most fabulous part is the '2+2' or '1+3' undergraduate training model, which will guarantee that students are more likely to choose the majors they are really interested in, and that they can expand their knowledge to prepare for the future scientific researches of multi-disciplines,” Prof. Deng said, “Students in SUSTech have great many opportunities to join the teachers' projects under the direction of practice-oriented fostering concept. It’s worth mentioning that students are accessible to complete the tasks of some enterprises with the joint help of academic tutors and corporate mentors so that plenty of students have benefited from this education model.” “SUST is a good platform where you can enjoy abundant resources that many universities in China cannot provide, and where you should industriously make the full use of the favorable conditions offered by it." he added.

Although our department is newly founded for only two years, it is creative and ambitious, corresponding with the innovative academic atmosphere of SUSTech. As the teaching and research work are thriving, there are three major research directions initiated in the department: Energy Engineering, Innovative Design and Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and Automation. What’s more, Prof. Deng specifically mentioned that they are conducting frontier researches and welcome new things though the department is not a large one. "Undergraduates are cultivated to acquire knowledge system and professional vision. They have a quite comprehensive curriculum, supposed to learn about the real needs of the industry through close contact with it. Our college provides them many opportunities to visit universities at home and abroad during summer vocations for a round idea about this field,” Prof. Deng said, “As for graduate students, we are inclined to improve their research capabilities. They have various training courses as well as chances to participate in domestic and foreign academic conferences where they can exchange ideas with their peers and to learn from each other."
 
——Cross-disciplinary, the outlook of mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering is traditionally deemed to be equal to noisy workshops, splashes of oil and heavy machines, etc., which makes many students stay at a respectful distance from it. However, Prof. Deng’s laboratory is clean and spacious. "The new mechanical engineering differs from the old one which most people cognize as the machinery industry,” Prof. Deng explained with a smile, “Machinery discipline has developed into a new era, bound to form a new mechanical engineering integrate with electronics, biology, materials science and other disciplines since the its research further deepens.” At present, Prof. Deng's team has launched cross-disciplinary research projects such as third-generation semiconductor wafer fabrication and micro-plasma chip manufacturing for biomedical usage. He pointed out that the research work among different disciplines would be correlative in the future so that the researchers should broaden the knowledge and keep passionate for continuous learning and creativity. Here Prof. Deng also encouraged us to learn what we are really interested in as much as possible during the undergraduate period.
 
——Polishing limit, an atomic scale ultra-precision machining technology


Since the doctoral period, Mr. Deng has been engaged in research on ultra-precision polishing of semiconductor materials. While many people think polishing plus ultra-precision are mysterious, enigmatic and recondite, Prof. Deng views it more as an important technical means related to the national interest. Undoubtedly, the ultra-precision polishing technology of semiconductor materials plays a vital role in the development of China's chip manufacturing industry.


Conventional mechanical polishing flattens and brightens the surface of objects processed by micro-cutting of finely polished particles, which inevitably leaves machining damage on the work- piece surface. Even using the emerging chemically assisted mechanical polishing technology, it is still difficult to preserve a perfect surface. To tackle this problem, Prof. Deng invents a new polishing technique that uses plasma to perform atomic-scale manipulation of materials. He said, “There is no mechanical impact of this polishing technique, for we rearrange the disorganized atoms of the materials according to the crystal structure to get a perfect surface where the atoms are regularly arrayed." This polishing technology gives the materials higher energy to recombine their atoms in accordance to their perfect state rather than breaking the atomic structure, which is the limit of the polishing that Prof. Deng understands and his team is working at with great confidence.
 
——Weird but delighted, lonely but longing for the ardent career


After graduating from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Mr. Deng chose to continue a six-year further study in Japan. When talking about the hardships and boring moments in scientific research, He smiled that he had not received any scientific training before he went to Japan and had been at loss for a long time, but he just spent one year on mastering all the instruments and equipment needed in the research. "I love it so I don't think it's boring. The more I focus on it and explore it, the more I can find its charm, so I am more attracted to it. Especially when I solve a problem, I find a great sense of satisfaction that cannot be described by words." Prof. Deng said.

Scientific research is like an exploration of finding a way in the darkness. Prof. Deng also said frankly, "The biggest difficulty is the feeling of loneliness. As the research is getting deeper and deeper, you will find that there are fewer and fewer people who you can communicate with and there are fewer and fewer things you can refer to. Then your loneliness intensifies." Furthermore, he mentioned that the depression will appear in the course of research because he is more aware that doing research is actually a process of filling the gaps in his knowledge reserve and there are more and more things that he doesn’t understand since the research deepens and involves other disciplines. It’s never an easy task to do an advanced scientific job. Though full of loneliness, Prof. Deng has always taken the leading position with his ardent love and intense interest in scientific research.
 
——A teacher, his eager anticipations of students

In this short talk with Prof. Deng, I could feel his earnest expectations of his students. At the end of the interview, we also invited Prof. Deng to give some advice on study and life to SUSTech students. In his opinion, freshmen and sophomores should plan their own university life as soon as possible and should constantly interact with their mentors. They are also supposed to expand knowledge with solid professional skills. Prof. Deng encouraged us to have academic visits to domestic and foreign universities or enterprises in order to learn about the current development of relative industries. Students who have plans to study abroad after graduation should prepare for language tests early. Besides, junior and senior students need to consider whether they are more suitable for conducting scientific research or seeking jobs based on their own personalities. While the researcher's mission is to create things from "0" to "1", the entrepreneur's task is to perfect things from "1" to "99".

"I hope you are willing to try, not frustrated by mistakes in a long lifework. I hope you are enjoyable to take your responsibility, not doubting your potentials which may make a difference in the future.” encouraged by Prof. Deng.
 


——The end

Finally, we were glad to invite Yongjie Zhang , a post-graduate in Prof. Deng’s team, to give his voice. When we asked why he prefers to study at SUST, he explained that it was because of a phone call that Prof. Deng gave him during the time he participated in the summer camp held by SUSTech. Through this call, Zhang began to know this new fast-growing University, admiring the sincere, enthusiastic and erudite young professor with respect. Now, having broadened his horizon and enjoyed the beginning three-month life in SUSTech, YongJie Zhang anticipates a lot for the future with full passion.