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January 21
2013年1月21日

名師出高徒,高徒追名師

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Claude Cohen-Tannoudji 教授是城大2010年的榮譽博士,也是1997年諾貝爾物理獎得主。2012年12月1日,我們出席在巴黎舉辦城大教授招聘會,Cohen-Tannoudji 教授不僅親臨會場,還在會上極力推介城大近年來的發展。他的出席使我們的招聘會生色許多。會後,他隨即飛往瑞典斯德哥爾摩,慶祝 Serge Haroche 由於「在測量和操控個別量子系統」的開創性實驗方法而榮獲2012年諾貝爾物理獎。

常言道,「名師出高徒」。Serge Haroche 是法國法蘭西學院的敎授,也是 Cohen-Tannoudji 教授的博士畢業生,可以說是又一印證。

雖然沒有完整的數據證明,名師一定會出高徒,但有人對諾貝爾自然科學獎得主做的統計證實,二十世紀確實有幾位大學者,如 J. J. ThomsonE. Rutherford(盧瑟福)、Max Born Enrica Fermi,不僅自己獲得學術研究上的最高榮譽,他們的學生中也不乏諾貝爾獎得主。

大學是年輕人學習知識、技能,培養做人道德及走向獨立人生的重要途徑,而不僅僅是一個職前訓練工廠,為的是畢業後找到一份工作。我相信,優質教育可以啟迪學生心智,發掘他們的潛能。正因如此,我自2008年任職城大以來,為招聘優秀教授、挽留傑出人士花了不少心力。今天,在香港學術圈裏可以常常聽到「這兩三年裏,城大招聘了許多出色的老、中、青教授」之說。

同時,為了增強學術氣氛,大學定期舉辦傑出講座,邀請海內外的知名學者為同仁及同學講述學術研究最前沿的發展進況。自2010年起,又開設了「校長講座系列:學術薈萃」,目的也是為了創造機會,讓大家透過與本校一流學者的互動溝通,得到啟發。

但是,有了名師,不一定自然會成為高徒。「徒弟」自己尚須努力,並爭取與名師互動溝通,才會有成就。中國有孟母三遷的故事,而1978年諾貝爾物理學獎得主彼得‧卡皮查的故事,更可說是學生追逐名師的典型例子。

卡皮查是前蘇聯公民。1921年,他前往英國劍橋大學,向著名物理學家盧瑟福吐露願意在他領導的卡文迪什實驗室從事研究的心願。但是盧瑟福對他說,實驗室已經不再接受新人。卡皮查於是機智地問︰在卡文迪什實驗中,誤差通常是多少。盧瑟福答道:5%之內。卡皮查馬上說,既然卡文迪什實驗室有30個研究人員,再多一個也不會被注意到,因為在誤差範圍之內。於是盧瑟福便將他留下來。

但是,卡皮查並沒有長期留下去。1934年,他回國探望母親時,被滯留在國內。盧瑟福勸他不如在國內從事低溫研究,並協助他購買了所需要的所有實驗儀器。最終,他與約翰‧艾倫等人發現液態氦Ⅱ在低溫下的超流體,並於1978年獲得諾貝爾物理學獎。盧瑟福早在二十世紀初已獲得諾貝爾化學獎。

我們可以捫心自問一下,有沒有這種精神與付出呢?

 

Great teachers and brilliant students in search of each other

Professor Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, who was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by CityU in 2010, is the 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics. On 1 December 2012, CityU held a reception in Paris as part of the University's continuing search for top faculty talent. Professor Cohen-Tannoudji attended the reception, at which he enthusiastically introduced to those present the University's recent developments. After the reception, he flew to Stockholm, Sweden, in celebration of Professor Serge Haroche's winning the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in inventing and developing ground-breaking methods for measuring and manipulating individual particles.

Professor Serge Haroche, now a professor at the College de France, was once a PhD student working with Professor Cohen-Tannoudji. Their mentoring relationship confirms the saying, "A great teacher produces a brilliant student."

Although current data are insufficient to prove the saying, the statistics on the Nobel Prize winners on natural sciences show that in the twentieth century, great scientists such as J. J. Thomson, E. Rutherford, Max Born and Enrica Fermi not only won top honors in their own research fields, but also nurtured excellent students, some of whom later became Nobel prize winners too.

A university is an important place where young people acquire skills and knowledge and develop their moral standing on their way towards an independent life. It should not be just a school of occupational preparation for finding a job after graduation. An excellent education, I believe, can open the minds of the students, allowing the full manifestation of their potentials. That's why I have put in a great deal of effort in recruiting prominent scholars and retaining excellent faculty and staff at CityU since my arrival in 2008. Today, in the local academic circles, it is widely accepted that in the past couple of years, CityU has recruited many eminent professors of all ages.

Meanwhile, to foster a vibrant academic atmosphere, the University regularly invites world-renowned scholars to deliver lectures on the cutting-edge research developments to the university community. In 2010, The President's Lecture Series: Excellence in Academia was established to offer a platform for students and faculty whereby they will be inspired by interacting with some of the most respected academics on campus.

Yet, even when there are great teachers, there is no guarantee that the students will be outstanding. The students have to put in the work and actively seek out the great teachers. The ancient Chinese story of Mencius' mother who moved three times in search for a better neighbourhood for her young son is legend, and today, we have another story in Pjotr Leonidovich Kapitsa, the 1978 Nobel Laureate in Physics.

In 1921, Kapitsa, a young Soviet physicist, went to Cambridge University, England with the expressed wish to work with the great British physicist Ernest Rutherford in his Cavendish Laboratory. At first Rutherford turned him down, saying that there was no vacancy in the laboratory. Kapitsa asked, "What is the usual margin of error in your experiments?" Rutherford answered, "About 5%." Kapitsa then pointed out to Rutherford that: " with 30 scientists working in the lab, his presence would hardly be noticeable as the ratio of 1 to 30 lies well within the 5% of margin of error of Rutherford's experiments. Rutherford decided to take him on.

Kapitsa didn't stay there for long, however. In 1934, he returned home to see his mother and was stuck in the USSR. Rutherford advised him to turn to low temperature research in his home country and helped him buy all the necessary experimental apparatus. In the end, Kapitsa and John Allen and others discovered liquid helium II in the low temperature superfluidity, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978, following the footsteps of his teacher Rutherford, the Chemistry Nobel laureate in 1908.

Let us ask ourselves, do we have the same determination and dedication?

January 21, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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