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Strength of partnership

By Liu Xiangrui | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-13 08:10

US scientist Earl Plummer is both a contributor to and witness of China's rapid development in quantum physics. He has worked closely with Chinese experts and institutes over the past decade. [Photo provided to China Daily]

US physicist Earl Plummer sees a bright future for China's further progress in science. Liu Xiangrui reports.

Next-generation electronic devices are receiving attention worldwide, and Earl Plummer says, he is happy that a decadelong collaboration with Chinese organizations has contributed to the sector's growth in the country.

Plummer, a professor at the Louisiana State University, specializes in the study of quantum phenomenon, and his research in the development of advanced observation methods, such as that for tunneling spectroscopy, have enjoyed international recognition.

Quantum physics is a field that relates to the study of atoms and subatomic particles.

The 77-year-old scientist from the United States has published more than 400 writings on his research that are frequently quoted by other scholars.

He has been both a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Plummer's exchanges with Chinese scholars began early in his career. A considerable percentage of his PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the US were Asians. Half of them have returned to Asia, primarily China, he says. This exchange created lifelong partnerships between him and Chinese scholars.

In 2000, he was invited through a former Chinese friend to be the chief scientific adviser for the then newly founded International Center for Quantum Structures at the Institute of Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Since then, he and other distinguished international researchers have also been invited to come to China once a year to advise and collaborate with the institute.

Thanks to his active coordination and support, ICQS also brought together a good number of top young Chinese scientists, many of whom have now become leading figures in the academic community, laying a solid foundation for advancing the country's research capabilities in such fields.

ICQS became such a success that it was later used as a model by some top Chinese universities and the collaborations have also been expanded to include other universities in the US, too.

"I have never seen in my career a program that was so successful as this," Plummer says.

According to him, the cooperation has benefitted both sides on the long run, especially young scientists from both countries.

"In the beginning, the benefit was primarily for the Chinese, but as time went by we (US collaborators) truly benefited," he adds.

His connection with and fostering of scientific leaders in China has assured a constant stream of talented scholars working in his US laboratory.

He has also had the chance to win sufficient funds for his research programs in China and has been able to build or use world-class equipment that are not available in the US.

"It (the collaboration) has really grown, and the interaction gets stronger every year," says Plummer.

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