Material Sciences and Engineering student Yu Sicen has achieved many firsts throughout his four years at SUSTech: top academic performance at Shuren Residential College, one of the SUSTech’s 2018 Top 10 Summa Cum Laude Graduates, and recipient of two first-class scholarships and the 2017 National Scholarship.
When asked about these achievements, Sicen said: “I want to break the stereotype of people born in the 90s – people like us can be just as hardworking as older generations. Besides, I want to help China become a stronger nation in energy resources.”
The Harder You Work, the Luckier You’ll Become
Despite being successful so far, Sicen used to be a typical underdog in his freshman year. He was open about his own shortcomings, particularly when it came to one subject.
“When I was admitted into SUSTech, my English scores were kind of low. I didn’t receive a good English education back in high school, which made my first year very hard. I’m not talking about mastering technical jargons – I barely passed the College English Test Band 4 (CET-4), which is awful even for average college students. I was afraid to tell my advisor about this!”
After taking the CET-4 test, he became determined to improve his English and set a very high goal for himself – preparing for the GRE test for two months straight. He studied English for nearly 12 hours every day, and his hard work finally paid off – getting a GRE score of over 320 as a future sophomore.
When being asked about how to be successful, he always responded: “Face your weaknesses with honesty and bravery, work hard on them, and never say never. The harder you work, the luckier you’ll become.”
Interest Is the Best Teacher
“Some people like to play computer games as a way to relax. For me, my pastime is doing research. When I was preparing for the GRE, I was under enormous stress. I applied for two weeks of lab work to relax. My advisor didn’t hesitate and greenlighted my proposal, and I got to relieve my stress by doing experiments in the lab.” Sicen recalled. It is because of his pure love for scientific research that he has published 10 SCI papers.
On top of true enthusiasm, holding himself to a high standard in all fields is also the key to his success. By strictly following the rules of his advisors and senior peers, he managed to master all the laboratory procedures after being taught only once or twice and formed a basic sense of scientific research at the end of his freshman year.
Having laid a solid foundation in his first year, Sicen has come a long way since then: from wiping the reaction kettle to mastering million-dollar equipment, from following the advisor step by step to leading a project independently, from writing a class project report to presenting research findings at the PRiME Meeting in Hawaii, from being dependent on translation software to publishing multiple SCI papers as first author, Sicenhas made huge leaps in his personal development.
Like many others, he encountered many obstacles during his research. Sicen developed over 200 test samples for a new type of battery. However, due to one particularly challenging problem, he was stuck for two months without producing any useful samples. People already told him to give up on this project, but Sicen eventually decided to follow his heart and stick with it. He carefully reexamined every step of battery-making under pressure, managed to find the problem, and successfully published an academic article with his senior peers in Chemical Communications.
Infinite Possibilities in Life
Besides being a student and young researcher, Yu Sicen took part in a wide variety of activities through his time at SUSTech. He was an entrepreneur and leader of five projects, an exchange student in Australia’s laboratory for two months, a skydiver jumping from a height of 14,000 ft, an extraordinary performer at the university street dance club, a well-known campus magician, and most importantly, a volunteer at a rural Chinese elementary school.
Out of all the activities Sicen has taken part in, he regards his volunteer experience in rural China as the most important one. Through the experience, he not only felt the daily hardship of rural Chinese students but was also deeply moved by their positivity and optimism. To lighten the mood on those difficult days of the students, Sicen performed magic for them and made them smile. However, there’s a deeper meaning behind Sicen performing magic: “Magic can be considered as making the impossible appear possible. I hope by channeling such spirit to the students, they can believe in themselves and achieve miracles for themselves when they grow up.”
Despite always switching roles in life, Sicen always knows his main goal in life: to become an expert in energy and serve his country. Before his freshman year started, Sicen had already decided to devote himself to materials sciences. He was planning his university life carefully according to his goal and never diverted from his calling. For instance, he chose the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) over other top-ranking universities because it provides the world’s leading battery energy technologies. With a full scholarship, Sicen will soon begin his doctoral studies at UCSD. We believe he will return as an expert who can take China’s energy industry to a whole new level.