NATIONAL CHENG KUNG UNIVERSITY, TAINAN, TAIWAN
BANYAN
Volume 8 Issue 3 - April 3, 2009
Commentary
“Dialogue among Great Minds at NCKU”:
Prof. Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Prof. Yuan Tzeh Lee and Prof. Britton Chance
Article Digest
Tian-Shung Wu
Isolation and Study of Antiplatelet Aggregatory Principles from the Leaves of Piper lolot
Yung-nane Yang
Disaster Rescuing System of Local Government – The 921 Earthquake in Taiwan
Jone F. Chen
Effect of hot-carrier-induced interface states distribution on linear drain current degradation in 0.35 um n-type lateral diffused metal-oxide-semiconductor transistors
Liang-Hsuan Chen
A symbol-based intelligent control system with self-exploration process
Article Digest
Kuei-Sen Hsu
Repeated cocaine administration promotes long-term potentiation induction in rat medial prefrontal cortex
News Release
News
Aesthetics Maestro Hsun Chiang (蔣勳) Addressed on How to Enjoy the Beauty of Life in NCKU Student Forum
News
NCKU and CSBC Corporation, Taiwan, Established Initial Collaboration Consensus
Opportunities
Activities
Editorial Group
Banyan Forum
“Dialogue among Great Minds at NCKU”:
Prof. Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Prof. Yuan Tzeh Lee and Prof. Britton Chance

Listening to talks by great scientific minds can be a life-changing experience, as noted by NCKU President Michael Ming-Chiao Lai in his opening remarks to the rare occasion of gathering the 1997 Nobel Physics laureate, Prof. Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, 1986 Nobel Chemistry laureate, Prof. Yuan Tzeh Lee, and member of the US National Academy of Sciences, Prof. Britton Chance here at NCKU. Nearly 600 audiences comprised of high school students, NCKU faculty and students and representatives from the industry joined this gathering on the afternoon of March 21st, 2009, in Chen-Hsin Hall in the College of Medicine. 

Facing a group of young students, the great minds shared their experiences and wisdom on life, learning, and science unreservedly and warmly. The following are summaries of their remarks. 

Prof. Claude Cohen-Tannoudji said that quantum physics knowledge has opened researches into new directions and helped new questions to be asked. Accepting new possibilities will help us to understand the universe more, discover more interesting applications and do exciting researches. Basic researches, especially physics, help us to better understand the world’s mysteries, solve health, energy and environmental problems. 

Advanced research can also improve science education in higher education, fight against intolerance and fundamentalism. “Because the school of scientific approach is a school of modesty, a school of dialogue and mutual respect among people, that is, open-mindedness.” He emphasized the importance of talking to young people. 

Prof. Yuan Tseh Lee said that he usually met with Prof. Cohen-Tannoudji in scientific conferences and both of them are members of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO), a noble organization which aims to promote peace through science.

Speaking of his scientific journey, Prof. Lee said that he read a book “Mr. Pumpkin in the Wonderland” while he was a high school student. The book mentioned that photon came though two doors, which aroused his curiosity to understand this strangely behaving particle. Hence he read more books on physics.

In 1955, Prof. Lee entered the Department of Chemistry at National Taiwan University. As a freshman, Prof. Lee had already made up his mind to become a great chemist. He asked senior students, “If I were to study very hard, would I become a good chemist?” Most students told him this was impossible. A professor told him that he should study the structure of molecules and hence he should study quantum mechanics. Prof. Lee maintained to study subjects such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, electricity, magnetism, and electronics. In order to become a scholar, Prof. Lee learned English, Japanese, German, French and Russian. “Nobody believed that somebody could do this, but I made it anyway,” commented Prof. Lee.

Prof. Britton Chance praised Prof. Cohen-Tannoudji’s eloquence on elaborating an abstruse subject such as quantum physics. He mentioned that photon is also a highly researched subject in biology:  photosynthetic bacteria will use light and capture photons to conserve energy from light. In the beginning, scientists researched on quantum mechanical tunneling, and now the chemists find proton tunneling the dominant reaction mechanism in many enzymes.

A student asked about how to formulate research questions and how to define graduate students’ identity in the laboratory. Prof. Cohen-Tannoudji said that joining a good laboratory with good atmosphere is important. Good supervisors can teach students how to ask good questions. Doing research requires passion and perseverance and these spirits can help researchers overcome problems and difficulties. “With a lot of hardworking, then, hopefully, eventually you can be more in control of what you are doing. You get better understanding, better intuition on where to go.” Comparing doing research to master a violin or piano, natural and fantastic performance is acquired through intensive practice.

For Prof. Cohen-Tannoudji, scientific life means there is always new things, new language, new concept, and new technology to learn. “I compare a researcher as a student forever. You have to always learn new things, but this is what is exciting in our lives. You are never bored to do the same things as yesterday. You have to improve yourself, to go beyond your capacities to explore your field. I think it’s worthwhile, despite it’s a hard life.”

Copyright National Cheng Kung University