Several scientists stressed the significance of talent cultivation in China’s basic research and encouraged young people to challenge cutting-edge issues in basic science on the sidelines of the International Congress of Basic Science (ICBS) held in Beijing.
Fields Medal winners Shing-Tung Yau, Caucher Birkar, Maxim Kontsevich, and Turing Award winner Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, shared their views on talent cultivation and the development of basic research in exchange activities with university teachers and students.
“We hope that young people can actively communicate with first-class scholars at home and abroad through this congress so that they can see how far the world’s most advanced sciences have gone, and set clear goals for themselves,” said mathematician Shing-Tung Yau, chairman of the ICBS and dean of Qiuzhen College at Tsinghua University.
“It is very important for young people to communicate with world-renowned scientists and listen to their speeches,” added Yau, who recalled that he solved an important question in 1979 because he listened to the speech of Fields Medal winner David Mumford, which is his lifetime memory.
Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said Chinese young people are very smart, and “in fact, all they need is a little help.”
“They can learn new knowledge in college courses, and they can meet some good professors who encourage them to exercise curiosity and the spirit to research. Such kind of talent growth will make a difference.”
He added that the new wave of artificial intelligence has come, and it will have a huge and far-reaching impact on academia, industry, and even the whole society in the future. Countries should strive to create a good environment to encourage more scientists to make research and “use curiosity to discover the problems they want to solve,” while also strengthening international exchanges and working together to address common challenges.
Caucher Birkar, a professor at Tsinghua University, said that in addition to the unsolved mathematical questions, the biggest challenge of mathematics is the training and education of mathematicians.
The textbook-style teaching, which tells students what to do and what not to do, will make many students feel bored in mathematics, and drift away from it and unable to enjoy the fun of mathematics, he added.
At Tsinghua University, he often encourages students to ask each other questions and communicate in class. He believes that asking questions is conducive to stimulating students’ interest and inspiring thinking.
“It is very important for mathematicians to get into the habit of asking questions, which is exploring new possibilities and imagining what you can do next. This habit is best cultivated when you are a student,” he said.
Maxim Kontsevich, a professor at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Study in France, believes that it is very important for more teenagers to feel the beauty of mathematics because only love can inspire you to make unremitting efforts to explore.
“Mathematics is a very beautiful subject, which plays an important role in the development and progress of human society, and is worth exploring and learning in our lives,” he said.
According to Shing-Tung Yau, countries still need to attach great importance to basic science, invest more resources, attract more talent to participate in basic science research, cultivate public interest in basic science, and promote international cooperation and sharing.
“Basic science is the cornerstone of human knowledge. It is an important way for us to understand the world, reveal principles of nature, explore the universe, and drive scientific and technological progress. And it is a powerful driving force to guide the future of humanity and promote social progress,” he said.