In 2018 National Science and Technology Awards issued at the beginning of this year, the project titled “The Phonon Transfer Theory and Energy Dissipation Model of the Friction Interface” led by Prof. Chen Yunfei from the School of Mechanical Engineering of our school won the Second Prize of the National Natural Science Award. Prof. Chen Yunfei and other four main members of the project—Prof. Yang Juekuan, Prof. Ni Zhonghua, Prof. Bi Kedong and Associate Professor Wei Zhiyong shared this joy in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing at the first time.This joy is never easily achieved. The flowers and applauses witnessed countless days and nights of suffering exploration. All the achievements cannot be made by the team without Prof. Chen Yunfei’s careful cultivation and persistent adherence.
In 1995, Chen Yunfei was still a young PhD candidate specializing in mechanical science at Southeast University. He was engaged in friction-related researches after his tutor who had just returned from the UK. After his graduation from school when he was preparing to follow his tutor to do something, his tutor intended to study further abroad. The young Dr. Chen had to study friction alone. Without guidance or expense support, Dr. Chen was confronted with difficulties and started to review his research direction. Upon appropriate adjustment, he transferred his study emphasis to micro-nano friction and finally applied the National Natural Science Foundation of China in 1998.
In retrospect of this difficult time, Chen Yunfei sighed and believed it as a very important turning point in his life. It was exactly this turning point that had enabled him to confirm his research direction in the field of friction science. Afterwards, he studied at University of California, Berkeley for exchanges and contacted with studies on heat transmission science overseas. He combined the friction with heat transmission together innovatively, which laid down his subsequent scientific researches domestically.
He used to conduct researches alone at the very beginning, but afterwards he started to get acquainted with several colleagues with common interests. In 2002, he returned from abroad. Even though he was still not qualified for PhD tutor, his colleagues were willing to recommend students to study after him about friction science and heat transmission science. Thus Chen Yunfei knew PhD candidate Yang Juekuan, who was about the same age and had interests in common. They became acquainted with each other soon and gradually became the partners engaged in scientific researches.
In 2007, Chen Yunfei welcomed his 7th PhD candidate: Wei Zhiyong of 23 years old, who was also enthusiastic about scientific research. Chen Yunfei always shared some proper suggestions and encouraged this student to carry out innovative studies. Under his kind guidance, this excellent PhD remained at Southeast University after his graduation and became the youngest member of Chen Yunfei’s team.
Right now, Dr. Yang and Dr. Wei have become the respectful tutors. Chen Yunfei has much more students than before, almost 50 members. All the students will gather together for meeting. In the past 24 years, Chen Yunfei developed from a one-person team to a picked team, which would publish a dozen of papers, undertake several programs supported by national funds, national-level key programs and key R&D programs. Up to now, the team has been granted “The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars”, “The First Prize for Natural Science of Ministry of Education in China” and “The Second Prize of National Natural Science Award”. In this course, he’s been always polishing himself and taken rooted in scientific researches, and finally became the disciplinary leader.
In the eyes of the students, Chen Yunfei is a good teacher who’s willing to consider his students. Hao Mengyi, one of Chen Yunfei’s master student, saw Chen Yunfei’s name online at the first sight. In the actual contacts with Prof. Chen, Hao Mengyi felt the kindness in close distance, “he always replies to my email quickly with kind words and tones. He’s a nice teacher and easy to get along with.” In terms of student cultivation, Prof. Chen emphasized a lot on the capacity for independent thinking and always encouraged the students to scientific researches to the utmost; therefore, Prof. Chen’s students never felt depressed or anxious about trifles. For the PhD candidates, Prof. Chen adopts the mode of combined training and emphasizes on broadening the students’ international vision. All the PhD candidates in his team were allowed to exchange abroad and usually returned back in one to two years.
Meeting is the main approach of communication between Prof. Chen and the students and also an important source of scientific inspirations. The major of mechanical design has five directions, mainly divided to three teams. In the team meeting, the teachers and the students will report and exchange ideas calmly, which Prof. Chen loves most. In his eyes, it is not only a course of information exchange, but filled with infinite possibility of scientific research.