How to view the appointment of the genius youth Cao Yuan as an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley?

A student of USTC Junior Class of 2010, Dr Yuan Cao from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been selected as one of the worlds top ten scientists at the age of 22 He has saved billions of dollars for the world energy industry

Returning to China after studying abroad

I would like to say that his outstanding scientific achievements are inseparable from his perseverance and perseverance during his doctoral period. Of course, it is also thanks to the scientific research platform (MIT) that supported him and provided him with support during his doctoral period. Both are indispensable.

He is still young, born in 1996, and achieving such accomplishments is indeed extraordinary. Choosing to stay as an assistant professor at the prestigious California Berkeley in the United States is also a wise move. On the one hand, he is about to start learning independence, and that environment is more suitable for him. On the other hand, his original platform and mentor network are there, making it easy for him to collaborate and grow without much difficulty.

It has to be said that this kind of choice is very suitable for the future independent and long-term development of scientific research career.

As for whether he should return to China for development? If we set aside personal patriotism, whether he returns or not depends on whether there are attractive aspects in China that can attract him. After all, there must be at least one reason for someone to be willing to go to a place. If you say it is purely based on patriotism, it is more like longing for something unattainable in this era, detached from reality. It can be done, but it completely belongs to the personal subjective choice category.

Speaking of the topic of returning to China after studying abroad, let’s say more.

In recent years, China has been developing to a higher stage and encouraging overseas personnel to return. We can also see more overseas study and research personnel who are willing to return to China because our higher education institutions and companies need more cutting-edge talents to support the rapid development of various fields. Moreover, overseas study still enjoys certain benefits, which is also a highlight of the country’s encouragement for overseas students to return.

However, an undeniable fact is that there are still quite a few returned overseas students who reconsider going abroad after returning to China. This reversal involves personal considerations, including personal discomfort with the domestic environment after returning, feeling overwhelmed by the fast-paced work rhythm and strong pressure, and complex interpersonal relationships that distract them from focusing on their main work. These factors may be fatal for a returned overseas student who cannot adapt to the local environment and chooses to leave again. Of course, there are also many returned overseas students who have developed well, and this cannot be ignored. So, as the saying goes, whether the development is good or bad and the decision to choose depends on individual factors, and it cannot be generalized.

We can say that our current development is human-centered development.

Our development needs to return to the individual. It depends on which place is more suitable for our personal best development in order to achieve our personal life aspirations.

Finally, returning to the protagonist of this topic, Cao Yuan, whether he eventually returns or not, when he returns, these are all choices based on his future development, unrelated to others, and we don’t need to make rash judgments.

Until now, he is one of the few prodigies who can consistently shine. I also hope that he will have even better academic development in the future!

The Return of Cao Yuan: Time and Priorities

I believe Cao Yuan will definitely come back, but just not now.

If I remember correctly, he was only 28 in 1996, which is too young even if he had a Nobel Prize. Returning now would only distract him from his scientific research.

Returning to China means rebuilding the laboratory, recruiting students, paying respects to influential figures, attending various academic conferences, and securing funding. It’s certain that he won’t have the same level of freedom as he does in the United States and he will have to attend to many obligations.

He is currently in the golden period of his scientific research. Staying there with the support of his doctoral advisor and continuing to focus on fundamental research is the ideal choice. Once he obtains a tenured position and even becomes a member of the National Academy of Sciences like Yan Ning, he can then make a direct impact and save even more time.

After all, what we have always needed is not just a genius who can bring in some funding when they return to China, but a “talent” who can directly contribute to the national benefits and reputation.

Z jun’s journey in research and academia

Z achieved outstanding results and received a full scholarship to study abroad at Harvard. Although he didn’t have the extraordinary abilities of classmate Cao, he became the envy of everyone.

According to Z, when he first arrived overseas, he had to put in a lot of effort to adapt to the different learning atmosphere and research methods. Fortunately, his gifted mind allowed him to quickly adapt to the study pace and keep up with his advisor’s research progress. In a short time, both his studies and research were on track.

His advisor was a rigorous scholar, or rather a somewhat conservative foreign professor who was extremely cautious about publishing academic papers, fearing that it would damage his academic reputation. Z had to repeatedly discuss every idea with his advisor, and any problems encountered during the research process had to be promptly communicated. Even the initial drafts had to undergo multiple revisions by his advisor, with each round of revisions being as challenging as peer review. Each paper had to be polished for at least a year, sometimes even longer, before it could be submitted, but every submission was successful.

In the first few years, Z devoted himself wholeheartedly to the research he loved, believing that research should be like this, and he thoroughly enjoyed the process. It wasn’t until he was close to completing his PhD that he thought about asking everyone if, with his achievements, he could secure the position he wanted if he returned to China.

Classmates from different schools helped him inquire about it and discovered that although his achievements were published in top journals in the field, they did not have the same level of recognition as NS. Therefore, the prospects were not very optimistic, and it would be difficult for him to achieve his desired position.

Z started considering the possibilities of developing outside of China, but he had not found a desirable teaching position. His parents and wife took turns trying to persuade him, using reason, emotions, and heartfelt pleas, even resorting to tears and threats, to convince him to abandon the idea of developing abroad and continue searching for positions in China.

Several good universities in China were very satisfied with his qualifications, but they required him to obtain a SEA-YOUNG before joining as an independent principal investigator (PI). Otherwise, he could only enter a large research group for development.

Z mustered all his strength and urged his advisor to quickly add two more articles to his resume. With full confidence, he applied for a SEA-YOUNG.

The result was extremely disappointing but not unexpected. He didn’t pass the evaluation…

In the end, in order to become an independent PI and continue his research that he loved, rather than relying on others for his survival, Z reluctantly lowered his expectations and entered a slightly lower-tier school than he had hoped for.

After starting his job, Z actively applied for various projects. He had full confidence in his research, as his good results had received recognition from his peers at various international conferences.

After numerous failures, the dean couldn’t help but give him advice, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!”

Looking at the expenses continuously going out without any income, Z finally humbly sought advice from the dean regarding the various techniques and considerations for assimilating into the system. Through the dean’s introduction, he got to know some influential figures in the field and began to frequently attend conferences and social events. After a year of “effort,” he started successfully applying for various projects.

The last time I saw Z, he seemed more sociable. He said that although the various foreign activities now consumed a lot of his research time, being an independent group leader still gave him considerable freedom in terms of research content. He currently had doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in his group, and their development was going relatively smoothly. He was still able to do a little bit of research that he loved with limited time. Comparing this to being confined in a large research group, he had no regrets about his choice.

I believe that for geniuses like Cao, being able to pursue their research according to their own ideas is the best fulfillment. No doubt, with his talent, he would be able to return with honor and recognition. However, his future research direction may not necessarily align with his wishes. Furthermore, Cao’s research requires substantial software and hardware support, and returning to China would undoubtedly impose significant constraints.

With Cao’s vision and intellect, he will undoubtedly make the choice that best suits his own development. I hope that in the future, he can achieve accomplishments like those of Mr. Yang and, when he deems the time is right, come back with great success, leading his research into a new era!

Returning to domestic universities for talents like Cao Yuan is not ideal due to scarcity and limitations in positions and compensation. Universities should offer more competitive benefits and development plans.

Teaching positions in China are very scarce. For example, even your university (MSE) has some outstanding candidates (more than one article, more than one person) who have no established reputation like Cao Yuan. If they want to return to your university but cannot, it is simply because there are no available positions. Job opportunities at other top universities are also very limited, but if Cao Yuan wants to go there, he can definitely go.

Moreover, the benefits of teaching positions in China are generally average. If Cao Yuan were to return, he would only have the status of an overseas outstanding young talent, and even top universities in China would only offer an annual salary of around 500,000 RMB. Zhejiang University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University may offer a higher salary, but it depends on the individual’s preference. The annual salary in Hong Kong universities is approximately 1 million Hong Kong dollars. The treatment at UCLA (Sorry, I read it wrong, it’s actually UC Berkeley) is estimated to be between 100,000 to 200,000 dollars, which is definitely better than in China.

As for funding and equipment, there is not much difference between China and other countries. They both purchase instruments from Europe and the United States… The gap is not significant, and China may be slightly better because there have been more recent purchases.

Therefore, taking into account all aspects, talents of Cao Yuan’s level are relatively disadvantaged if they return to China now, and he himself may not necessarily want to return… His main disadvantage is that, although he has a great reputation, he lacks the matching qualifications. If he can quickly obtain a permanent teaching position, become a member of the National Academy of Sciences, or receive various fellowships in the United States, then there are various channels that can pay a high price to attract him back. So, I think for talents like him, universities should try to come up with more competitive benefits and training programs, instead of waiting for them to develop and then picking them up.

Discussion on Appearance

Returning to China?

I saw someone discussing his looks.

This was taken when we went to our school to give a presentation (I didn’t get up in time and couldn’t make it, so my friend helped me take it). I thought he looked really fair and handsome. What’s strange is that the presentation was given in the chemistry department’s classroom.

As for the question of whether he will return to China or not… I think it’s really not necessary to dwell on it. I admit that I don’t understand his field well enough, but I feel like the direction he’s working in has uncertain prospects. It’s possible to hope that he will come back and publish a few more papers in Nature and Science, although he can no longer rely on the influence of his advisor. However, those who are skeptical about the allure of publishing in Nature and Science also feel that it doesn’t have much substantive significance.

On the other hand, we should be more open-minded and not so narrow-minded, especially when it comes to fundamental research like this. If talent can flourish in the environment that suits them best and contribute to expanding the frontiers of science, that’s good enough. Achieving something in the United States is stronger than being buried in China. Objectively speaking, becoming a professor in the United States is much more beginner-friendly than in China, and a place like Berkeley also has top-tier students, which is more beneficial to his development.

I also saw someone making a humorous conspiracy theory about him not coming back because of what happened at MIT recently. The things that student at MIT did are completely unworthy of a conspiracy, and Cao Yuan won’t bring back any crucial technology. I think in this day and age, there won’t be any Ph.D. graduates who deserve the treatment that Qian Xuesen received.

It’s surprising that I’m answering questions related to Cao Yuan for the second time. It’s just a coincidence, and I’m not his fan.

Cao Yuan’s Research and Academic Achievements

Starting from July 2024, Professor Cao Yuan will serve as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Science and Technology of China in 2014, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees from MIT in 2016 and 2020, respectively. Prior to joining Berkeley, from 2021 to 2024, he worked as a Junior Fellow at Harvard University.

His primary research focuses on the electrical, optical, and mechanical properties of low-dimensional materials, as well as how to manipulate these properties and apply them in practical ways using interdisciplinary approaches, including nanotechnology, metamaterials, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

Cao Yuan has been recognized with numerous awards for his contributions to physics. In 2018, his research on the superconductivity of twisted bilayer graphene was listed among the “Top Ten Scientific Discoveries” and “Physics Breakthroughs of the Year” by Nature. Subsequently, he was named one of the “Time 100 Next” in 2019 and received the Sackler Prize in Physics in 2020, the McMillan Award in 2021, and the Richard L. Greene Paper Award in 2022.

Starting from the fall of 2024, Professor Cao Yuan will be recruiting highly motivated graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the fields of two-dimensional materials, low-temperature electrical transport, nanophotonics, metamaterials, and MEMS. Those with relevant experience in nanomaterial synthesis will receive priority consideration.

Returning to China with a tenured position obtained abroad.

The best solution for top-notch professionals with strong research abilities who also want to start a career in China is as follows:

Obtain a tenured position abroad and then return to China.

For individuals with this level of expertise, directly returning to China has the following drawbacks:

  • Joining a traditional top university and becoming part of a lab with a prominent professor, responsible for the main research direction, may limit their ability to establish their own independent research group. This is due to potential limitations in research funding, limited laboratory space in traditional universities, and restricted access to experimental equipment.
  • Joining an emerging university may result in a lower quality of students compared to top universities.

Disappointed with your progress: Speed and Innovation needed

Actually, I am somewhat disappointed in you.

When I initially appointed you as an assistant professor, it was because your speed in reversing graphene was unmatched.

I had hoped that once you came in, you would give it your all and quickly make progress.

The level of Berkeley AP is not achieved by merely combining different angles and layers of twisting. You need to have the capability for room-temperature superconductivity.

What is the value of the graphene you have twisted? Have you created barriers and formed core superconducting power? How does your work differentiate from other magic-angle detectives in the world? Have your experiments resulted in a set of reusable physical data and methodologies? Why is it that only you can do this and not others? You need to have your own taste for scientific research, instead of solely doing what Nature can publish.

In the future, solidify your thoughts and reflections in your daily, weekly, and monthly reports. I hope to see your innovation, not just parameter tuning. Also, I would like to remind you that your output is somewhat lacking compared to Edison, who invented the light bulb. The year-end evaluation is approaching, so put in more effort.

Look at the AP from our school. Before they were either promoted or left last year, they spent the entire year sleeping in the project room. Scientific research is always accompanied by pain, and it is during your most painful moments that our school’s ranking grows the fastest. Keep it up!

Return to China for what?

Why Return to China to do Green Peppers, When You Can Stay Abroad to do AP?

What’s the point of returning to China?

Working as a supply assistant for a senior executive, an assistant to the dean, or running errands for the administration?

Only by becoming a full professor can one have any authority upon returning to China.

With abundant resources invested in our platform, even my daughter could secure a spot in the Olympic Games.

A discussion on someone’s girlfriend being Korean.

Reminded me of certain patriotic marketing accounts.

Heard he has a Korean girlfriend?

If it’s true, no wonder his style looks so Koreanized now.

I think it’s better for him to stay abroad; he can come back to retire when he becomes successful and famous.