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Mechanical And Energy Engineering Department (MEE) Dean Yiming Rong: Innovation Is Vital To Mechanical Engineering

His research area involves precision machining technology, mechanical properties control of metal material, computer aided design (CAD), computer aided manufacture (CAD) and integration. He has been hosting the sub seminars of ASME and ASM annual conferences in 1995, 1998 and 1999 and he was granted "ASME FELLOW" in 2004 for his research achievement. In 2003, he was granted WPI Distinguished Professor for his outstanding research achievement. In 2010, he worked as a Distinguished Professor of the "National Distinguished Professor" at Tsinghua University. Now, he has come to SUSTech and unveiled the opening of MEE department. He, is the MEE Department Dean of SUSTech, professor Yiming Rong.
Professor Rong cares about education, innovation and emphasizes on applying innovative thinking into engineering practice. It is believed that he will bring a string of special vitality to SUSTech. While being interviewed by our reporter, professor Rong talked about the details of the current status of MEE department and briefly introduced the goal and future development of MEE.

[What is Machinery?]
"Machinery is the foundation of the entire national economics and it serves various industries and professions. Meanwhile it is the key factor in the competition among countries." Professor Rong answered while being asked about what machinery was.
Professor Rong mentioned, in the future, mechanical engineering would transfer its structural focus from traditional machine development to intellectual development and closely combined with frontier fundamental disciplines. In manufacture industry, the requirement of higher precision level and better functionality was increasing and people asked for better control at smaller and smaller scale. Thus, the development of manufacture and frontier science should not be separated. However, many challenges still existed. In his point of view, the development of engineering disciplines should focus on two directions. One of them was that engineering should be more scientific for further development in technology. The other one was innovation. Professor Rong emphasized that a product was only valuable if it was applicable in people's daily life. Only if we deeply understood the demands can we develop products which would foster the economic development. Meanwhile, engineers should innovate to fulfill the needs of society. "SUSTech is a university of innovation, so we should apply what we learnt and developed in practical life." Professor Rong treated machinery as the main body of innovation thus innovation was crucial to mechanical engineering.

[Streams: Three major streams for the breeding of world-class teams and students]
Professor Rong has planned three major streams for the development of MEE department.
One of them was robotics and automation. This stream used robots as the carrier and developed intellectual machines. This would provide a foundation for the next industrial revolution. The second stream was innovative design and advanced manufacture. Professor Rong pointed out that good innovation started at designing. "We emphasizes on the thinking stage at the beginning of design so factors like manufacturing and market demands should be considered. This is the starting point of the entire value chain. The extension from here is advanced manufacture technology, such as the 3D printing technology. The advance in manufacture techniques provides a broad platform for innovative design." The third stream was energy engineering. " It is certain that fuel cells, solar cells and energy management will be one of our major focuses. All of them are the cutting-edge disciplines in industry and even in scientific technology, which is rapidly developing." Except the three major streams, he hoped that our faculty and students would co-operate and achieved disciplinary interaction so that some special technology realm within these three directions could obtain unique development. Moreover, he wished to develop world-class research team and graduates.
[Faculty: research ability and education enthusiasm]
Professor Rong said, MEE department was newly established and it was recruiting globally. He hoped to attract more faculty of high quality. " SUSTech aims to be a first-class research university in the world, therefore our employment standard is tenure track, which is based on the employment standard of world-class universities overseas. Our recruitment criteria mainly focus on research ability. The ability and enthusiasm in education will also be considered."
Besides, professor Rong hoped for the joining of senior professors in those major research area mentioned above. He also said that the recruitment was not only focusing on the personal achievement or titles such as " Recruitment Program of Global Experts " but also the potential of personal development of the faculty in order for sustainable development of SUSTech.
[Student education: Knowledge and Practice]
Professor Yiming Rong told us that the department was making the education plan for undergraduate and graduate students. He hoped that the plan would ensure effective studies for fundamental knowledge while being flexible enough for profession selection. Thus, students could achieve personalized development based on their advantages and interests. Besides, he mentioned other important points.
"I hope to tell everyone what engineering and machinery are in Mechanical Engineering Introduction in the upcoming autumn; we are also planning to provide students with opportunities to practice and understand what manufacture is. If you have good ideas and apply for support, we will give you a chance to practice, regardless of what the products are."
Professor Rong said engineering practice is an important section in engineering study. It can inspire independent thinking of students. He wished that the students at SUSTech would be used to work under the condition where theoretical knowledge is incomplete but they should have good self-learning ability and the spirit of teamwork. Additionally, he mentioned the preliminary idea of interdisciplinary development. He would like to create a compatible environment where people in various research realm can work together, understand each other and inspire their minds so that research could go deeper. Meanwhile, when talking about the support for innovation and entrepreneurship of MEE department, he proposed another unique thought.
"Our thought on innovation is not limited on starting up companies. The development of every product has an S curve, at the beginning it is called creation; when it reaches a point where expandable and develops rapidly in a short time, it is called innovation. I very much agree with the idea of using the practical problems in industry as examples to perform practice education at universities. Only if students practice by themselves can they understand how to start solving a problem and how to define an abstract problem. When we come to study at universities, learning some professional knowledge and skills is one thing. Another very important thing is that students should learn "dealing with stuff", which is not quite relevant with profession, e.g. how to define a problem, how to communicate and team working."
Professor Rong said we should achieve "Double Standards, Different Within", i.e., we should fulfill the requirement of national evaluation standards while forming our special features simultaneously.
[SUSTech is much better than imagination]
"I have contacted the former principal Zhu five or six years ago and I have paid attention to SUSTech by then as I am very fond of new stuff. Then, principal Chen took the post. After a few times of deep conversation, I found that SUSTech was very attractive. It is mainly about the development space provided to me by SUSTech, because I can establish profession, conduct research in the way which I think is appropriate. This is my favorite part. After coming to SUSTech, I have had more surprises and encouragement. That is, SUSTech is much better than my imagination."
Professor Rong was astonished while talking about the surprises after coming to SUSTech. Firstly, he said that SUSTech's administration served for both operation and teaching, which was rare within the country. However, this feature ensured the vitality in running the school. Secondly, he said that the working atmosphere, which was open and free, was not achievable for other universities, since 90% of the professors at SUSTech came from abroad. Thirdly, he was impressed by the fact that some freshmen have proposed the idea of making racing cars to him even before he was officially granted the post. He said he has been given great encouragement and confidence since then. "Every student in the first year was fighting for his or her GPA. But the students at SUSTech have such independent thoughts that they were not chasing after the most popular subject but the most frontier and valuable one. This independent mode of thinking is invaluable!"
Professor Rong hoped that SUSTech could become a "Clean Earth", where the atmosphere should be more tolerant compare with the current society. Meanwhile, it could provide some development space for people who possessed special talents and refused to follow the crowds.
[Wishes for students]
"SUSTech students are valuable in independent thinking mode. We hope the graduates could have their own ideas and thoughts other than 'chasing for fashion'. Students could find out the things they were fond of and do what they like. They can form their personal features in various realm so that they can have better development opportunities. "

Translator: Xiaochuan Xiao