From zero foundation to 5 SCI, Yangda undergraduate team with “old with new”

“When I first joined the group, I was a blank piece of paper, and I didn’t know anything!” Today, Yan Zihan, a 2019 undergraduate student at Yangzhou University, has not only received 3 SCI papers, but also won the direct doctoral quota of Zhejiang University in advance.

Yan Zihan’s School of Physical Science and Technology of Yangzhou University has an excellent undergraduate team and has published 5 SCI papers consecutively. The instructors of the undergraduate team all said: “I didn’t expect these undergraduates to make such excellent results!” ”
General colleges, undergraduates, 5 SCI… Behind the remarkable results, what has this undergraduate team put in?
From “a blank piece of paper” to holding 3 papers

Yan Zihan Photo courtesy of interviewee
Yan Zihan published 3 SCI papers in a row as a single author in his junior year, and two of them were published in the Top Journal of the first district, with a total impact factor of 28.9 points.
Although he is now beginning to peek at the door in scientific research, Yan Zihan made a compromise in the choice of major.
“In high school, I always loved biology and dreamed of doing research on biomacromolecules or virology.” In an interview with China Science News, Yan Zihan bluntly said, “Because I was worried that my college entrance examination score was not enough, I did not choose my favorite biology major, but applied for the microelectronics science and engineering major.” ”
In 2019, first-year student Yan Zihan caught up with the reform of the School of Physical Science and Technology of Yangzhou University, which not only strongly supported undergraduates to participate in scientific and technological innovation work, but also recruited a group of undergraduates to follow the faculty to engage in scientific research. Because of his obsession with biology, Yan Zihan did not hesitate to sign up for the biophysics research group.
After joining the group, Yan Zihan was arranged to carry out computational physics-related work. “With the help of my mentors and seniors, I grew to like computational physics.” Yan Zihan recalled.
Undergraduate students do scientific research, only interest is not enough. In the process of practice, Yan Zihan also found a problem: “I am a blank piece of paper in terms of the theoretical knowledge reserve of computational physics, I can only start by reading a lot of literature, and then try to repeat the experiments in the literature to see if I can get the same results.” If you encounter something you don’t understand, go to professional forums and see how the gods solve the problem. ”
“In addition to theoretical knowledge, we also have to learn to use various software.” Yan Zihan introduced, “We wanted to simulate the composite system of graphene and copper substrate, but the software commonly used in the group could not simulate such a system well, and we had to start learning new software from scratch. ”
This process is very time-consuming and arduous, and the undergraduate team spent nearly a year learning new knowledge, and after countless trial and error, they finally got to the door.
Yan Zihan especially thanked his senior Yang Wenjie (now a master’s student at the Suzhou Institute of Nanotechnology and Nanobionics, Chinese Academy of Sciences), “We often get together to ‘tinker’, mainly because the senior is helping me clarify my research ideas. The support and encouragement of my seniors has provided me with great scientific confidence. ”
The academic tasks at the undergraduate level are not easy, Yan Zihan always returns to the dormitory when the lights are out, and this is how he uses his spare time and rest time to persist his curiosity about scientific research with practical actions.
The first paper was on the verge of rejection
“Our article has been accepted by Nanoscale Horizons!” In the early morning of June 23, 2022, at the moment of receiving the email, Yan Zihan and Yang Wenjie, who were resting due to running data and analyzing all night, faded their tiredness and cheered.
This is Yan Zihan’s first scientific research paper published as the first author.
The research focuses on the dynamic covalent properties of two-dimensional material interfaces. Research in this area is sparse and references are difficult to find. Yan Zihan told China Science News, “I can only apply some of these common thinking and methods to this research field by reading references in related fields, and sometimes the results are not satisfactory.”
“We often encounter research bottlenecks, when people get together to discuss, brainstorm, and find breakthroughs.” Yan Zihan recalls, “We would sometimes go to mentors, who were more experienced and would show us a clear path. ”
Although the writing of the paper has been rough, one of the reviewers raised a large question about the model in the review comments. This is a very big blow to the undergraduate team. The reviewer believes that the model used by the team does not conform to the widely accepted Lerf-Klinowski model, and that a more advanced GGA functional should be used for the calculation method.
Although in the preliminary research, the undergraduate team has demonstrated that the existing system is more suitable for the description of LDA functionals proposed decades ago and less commonly used today. But in the face of doubts, Yan Zihan, as a worker, was still a little overwhelmed.
In this regard, the instructor suggested directly indicating that the team’s model was based on the Lerf-Klinowski model and had an advantage in the current problem. At the same time, the calculation results of GGA functionals are added to explain the reasons for LDA functionals in the comparison. The final paper was successfully accepted.
“We were on the verge of rejection, taking scientific arguments and buying opportunities for ourselves.” Yan Zihan thanked his supervisor for his strict control and decisive decision-making, “The supervisor told us that we should never fool articles and others, and once the paper is published, it will accompany me for a lifetime, which also makes me feel in awe of scientific research.” ”
Build a platform to “bring the old with the new”

Yan Zihan’s undergraduate research team at Yangzhou University was officially established at the end of 2019. This team of undergraduates didn’t go well in their start.
“In the beginning, the team did not have a fixed office space, and discussions in dormitories, teaching buildings, cafeterias, and online meeting rooms were the norm.” Yan Zihan said, “We did not have our own equipment initially, because we shared a server cluster with the graduate students in the research group, and the undergraduate team often did not have enough computing nodes, and the research progress was very slow. ”
In 2021, with the support of the School of Physical Science and Technology of Yangzhou University, the undergraduate team has its own scientific research position – Building 28, Slender West Lake Campus of Yangzhou University. Here, the college equipped them with 4 high-performance computing servers, and the undergraduate team was officially renamed as the undergraduate group of the computational physics research center of the college.
The new equipment runs much faster, reducing tasks that previously required a day to “run” to several hours. The new equipment also brings new challenges, and undergraduate team members need to learn the new computing software VASP.
The high-frequency words such as lattice, brillouin zone, state density, and energy band in the thick software manual are really confusing for first- and second-graders who have not yet studied solid state physics.
“Be sure to gnaw this ‘hard bone’ off.” With such determination, the members of the undergraduate research group taught solid state physics by themselves, took turns to serve as “little teachers”, collected everyone’s problems and puzzles, and answered them uniformly at weekly meetings.
In order for everyone to grasp more thoroughly, the “little teachers” must work their own, and on the basis of correct understanding, they must also think about how to say it so that everyone can understand. In this way, the team members “put hands” on each other and groped into the door of computational physics step by step.
At the same time, the undergraduate research team also works in the mode of “old with new”, using “old people” and “new people” to share personal scientific research experience, methods and methods. The team focuses on the dynamic covalent interface of 2D materials in order to develop various applications based on the dynamic covalent interface of 2D materials.
“A tireless drill”

Under the model of “old with new”, batches of new blood continue to emerge, allowing the undergraduate team to continue and inherit. A group of undergraduates who “have ideas” and “dare to try” are gathered here, and they are engaged in interesting and challenging research.

 Photo courtesy of Situ Boyi
Situ Boyi is a 2020 undergraduate student majoring in microelectronics science and engineering at Yangzhou University and a member of the research group. He is currently submitting one article after another, and plans to complete the writing of another paper in the first half of this year, paving the way for himself to continue to engage in deeper and more systematic research work.
He said frankly, “Under the condition that senior Yang Wenjie and Yan Zihan laid a solid foundation in the early stage, I got started much easier, and I could directly consult them if I had questions, so as to avoid detours.” ”
“To do scientific research and publish articles, we must be rigorous.” Situ Boyi said that he learned a lot from his mentor and senior, “The senior helped me lay a solid foundation for scientific research, and the supervisor strictly controlled the quality of the paper. Whitespace, line spacing and other issues in the article cannot escape the eyes of the instructor. ”
“Scientific research, only curiosity is not enough, but also need a drill.” Speaking about this undergraduate team, the college supervisor said, “They all have a tireless drill in them. When they encounter concepts and experiments that they are not familiar with, they will delve into the end. ”
When asked if it was too early for undergraduates to participate in scientific research, the instructor said: “Undergraduates acquire knowledge from textbooks and acquire knowledge from doing scientific research are two different processes. Studying books is like eating a chef’s cooking, while doing research is more like cooking as a chef yourself.
In Yangzhou University, not all undergraduates have to participate in scientific research, nor do undergraduates have to participate in scientific research as soon as they enter the research group, which also has a stage of adaptation and transition.
The team of instructors believes that undergraduates are more active and broad-minded, and are often able to think from a unique perspective. Although they may come up with some immature ideas at the beginning, they need to focus on guidance at this time to stimulate the enthusiasm of undergraduates to solve problems and help them grow on the road of scientific research.
Recently, this undergraduate team is preparing for the 2023 Challenge Cup provincial competition. In order to make efficient use of the winter vacation time, the project leader specially opened an online “13-hour conference room” from 9 am to 10 pm, as long as there is a problem, the team members can enter the conference room, Yan Zihan, Situ Boyi and other senior brothers have been in the meeting to help everyone solve the problem.
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