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National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University


  • Feature Story

  • Publish Date:2024-07-10
The Genuine Scientist and Prolific Writer Bridging Thought and Poetry - Academia Sinica Academician Chien-Ping Lee, Lifetime Chair Professor at NYCU
Professor Chien-Ping Lee, Lifetime Chair Professor of the Institute of Electronics at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU), has been awarded the highest academic honor as an Academician in the Division of Engineering Sciences by Academia Sinica.
Professor Chien-Ping Lee (center), Lifetime Chair Professor of the Institute of Electronics at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU), has been elected as an Academician in the Division of Engineering Sciences for the 34th term of Academia Sinica. (Photo courtesy of Li-Chun Wang, Dean of the College of Electrical and Computer Engineering)
By NYCU Alumni Voice
Translated And Edited by Chance Lai

Although Professor Chien-Ping Lee has retired, he frequently shares his stories, teaching insights, and views on world affairs on his social media platforms. In addition to this, he enjoys writing poetry and creating videos of his recitations to share online, using diverse and unrestricted media formats. He named his blog, where he records these musings, "Thoughts and Poetry of Chien-Ping Lee." Through his keen observations and delicate, vivid writing, readers can glimpse the harmonious blend of rationality and sensitivity in Prof. Lee's thoughts and inner world.

"Rationality and sensibility complement each other," Prof. Chien-Ping Lee asserts. "While thinking must be rational, expression can be emotional. There is no contradiction in embracing both." As a semiconductor physics researcher, Lee has a unique perspective on this view: "Nature itself is beauty." Whether they are scientists, writers, or artists, they all pursue beauty. Appreciating the beauty of nature is an inherent instinct for everyone—humans, being products of nature, resonate with and find beauty in harmonious natural phenomena.

Conversely, unnatural elements, such as car noise or polluted environments, cause discomfort. The morning birdsong, the sunset by the sea, and the starlit sky always captivate us. Poetically, Lee says, "Because it is in harmony with our body and mind. Scientists can appreciate their beauty even more when they understand the principles and patterns behind these natural phenomena."

His concepts are reflected in real life and his observations of the world around him. Childhood memories, laboratory anecdotes, and his academic journey as a professor all serve as material. In his blog, "Thoughts and Poetry of Chien-Ping Lee," his richly emotional writing allows readers to see a scientist's vibrant and colorful life story.
Professor Chien-Ping Lee interacts enthusiastically with his students, fostering a relationship where they become both mentors and friends. (Photo courtesy of Chien-Ping Lee)
Prof. Chien-Ping Lee interacts enthusiastically with his students, fostering a relationship where they become both mentors and friends. (Photo courtesy of Chien-Ping Lee)

Returning to Taiwan from the U.S.: Forming a Bond with NCTU

Prof. Chien-Ping Lee graduated from National Taiwan University and earned his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, specializing in semiconductor optoelectronic devices. He is the inventor of the optoelectronic integrated circuit. He later worked at the Rockwell Science Center in the United States, rising to a senior executive position without any intention of returning to work in Taiwan. However, in 1982, his wife chose to return to her alma mater, the Department of Physics at National Tsing Hua University, to teach. At his wife's insistence, Prof. Lee returned to Taiwan at the end of 1986. Notably, his decision to join National Chiao Tung University (NCTU, now NYCU) was influenced by President Mau-Chung Chang. At that time, President Chang, whom Prof. Lee had also invited, was working at Rockwell. As an alumnus of NCTU, President Chang suggested that Prof. Lee consider joining NCTU.

Later, Prof. Lee accepted an invitation from President Nan-Hung Kuo and returned to Taiwan to become a professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering at NCTU, also serving as the Director of the Semiconductor Research Center. The following year, he was appointed by President Ta-Nien Yuan and then Vice Chairman of the National Science Council, President Chi-Fu Den, to take on the task of building the National Submicron Device Laboratory. This laboratory, later renamed the Nano Device Laboratory, became the first of its kind in Taiwan and one of the most advanced semiconductor research laboratories in the global academic community.

The workplace cultures in Taiwan and the U.S. differ significantly, and the environments of academia and industry are also distinct. Prof. Lee's personality prefers freedom and dislikes excessive constraints. Initially, he found adapting to his dual roles as a professor and an administrative director at NCTU somewhat challenging. However, once he became familiar with the environment and the nuances of handling affairs there, he grew to love the job. Prof. Chien-Ping Lee humorously mentions that he has his own method to navigate these challenges smoothly. Over the years, his method, honed through experience, is quite simple: using a high degree of rational self-discipline to achieve developmental goals while maintaining a clear conscience in all other matters.

Prof. Chien-Ping Lee later established the Nano Science and Technology Center at NCTU, promoting research in nanotechnology. It became one of the first National Nano Core Facilities supported by the National Science Council (NSC). The center operates completely self-sufficiently, without any subsidies from the university, and supports academic institutions nationwide by providing the most advanced equipment and technology. The center's performance has consistently ranked first in the annual NSC evaluations. Since it is not an official university department, Prof. Lee has never enjoyed the benefits or additional pay associated with being a director. What brings him the greatest joy in this role is having a beautiful office where he can focus on his work in a quiet corner of the campus, free from external disturbances, making his life both fulfilling and pleasant.

Prof. Lee's straightforward personality inevitably conflicts with the conventional and bureaucratic culture. He refuses social invitations from vendors and is unwilling to compromise with lobbying efforts. However, his forthright nature does not hinder his interactions with others or his efficiency in handling matters. He believes that things can be done smoothly as long as one strikes a good balance between reason and sentiment. He has served as the director of three different nano centers at NCTU: the Semiconductor Center (now the Nano Center), the National Nano Device Laboratory, and the Nano Science and Technology Center. Despite these high-level positions, he remains approachable and does not exhibit the demeanor of a bureaucrat.

The Shepherd of Knowledge: Letting the Flock Graze Freely

In both teaching and research, Prof. Lee has a unique approach. He has supervised over forty Ph.D. students and hundreds of master's students, earning their deep affection. In the United States, he led a research team of over a dozen Ph.D. students. After becoming a professor, he had to assume multiple roles when guiding inexperienced graduate students—sometimes as a teacher, sometimes as a friend, and sometimes as a parent. He describes his mentoring style as "letting the flock graze freely."

He describes himself as a shepherd, leading his students to a lush meadow of knowledge, allowing them to roam freely and graze at their own pace. He avoids a directive teaching style, where every action follows a command, to cultivate his students' ability to learn independently and conduct their own research. To Prof. Lee, a teacher is also a guide who brings students to a treasure mountain of knowledge, where they must explore and discover the treasures independently.

Therefore, he allows his students to explore and develop independently, whether it is selecting topics, choosing research methods, or analyzing results. He believes that only in this way can students truly appreciate the joy of research, enjoy the pleasure of achieving results, and understand the beauty of natural science. By developing into responsible researchers, students will be able to face various challenges after graduation. He feels immense pride in seeing his former students excel in both academia and industry.

Speaking of undergraduate students, he humorously admits that sometimes he needs to "coax and deceive" them, as they are still young and inexperienced. In the classroom, they are learning not only knowledge but also how to conduct themselves. He hopes students can learn valuable skills from him that will become lifelong assets. Professor Lee has a habit of writing a letter to all his students at the end of the semester. He knows some students might be upset about poor exam performance or failing grades. He encourages them not to give up, reminding them that everyone has their own worth and should not lose heart because of a single setback. He aims to ensure that his students can always find hope, no matter the situation.

Many people believe that today's students are not as capable as those in the past, but Prof. Lee disagrees. He thinks the difference lies in learning methods and attitudes. Nowadays, when students encounter something they do not understand, they often go online to find the answer immediately, making the computer their primary research tool. In the past, without widespread internet access, students had to figure things out independently and then go to the library for information if needed. Prof. Lee believes that "thinking" is a crucial part of learning. Without proper thought, merely cramming information cannot turn it into one's knowledge. Therefore, he suggests that students should change their learning methods, think more, and thus polish their already outstanding talents.

Professor Chien-Ping Lee has countless students who have excelled under his guidance. After retiring, he has turned to writing to document the many facets of his life, including his 30-plus years of teaching experience.(Photo courtesy ofChien-Ping Lee)
Prof. Chien-Ping Lee has countless students who have excelled under his guidance. After retiring, he has turned to writing to document the many facets of his life, including his 30-plus years of teaching experience.(Photo courtesy of Chien-Ping Lee)

In his teaching experience, Prof. Lee has observed that many students view studying as a painful task, doing it for their parents, exams, or to secure an excellent job in the future, ultimately losing the joy of learning. He often tells his students that pursuing knowledge and truth is an instinct, like eating when hungry or sleeping when tired. "Learning should be a joyful experience if you follow your interests and abilities," he says.

However, with government policies encouraging the high-tech industry and its high demand, everyone wants to learn about semiconductors and enter the electronic information industry. "But not everyone is suited for this field," Prof. Lee laments. Putting a young person in the wrong place hinders their learning and causes them distress. He maintains his educational principle: Only by liking what you learn can you learn it well and excel in your career!

Please refer to the original text (Mandarin) for details.
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