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CHEN Jian: Seeking global vision and scaling new heights in scientific research


CHEN Jian talks in an interview.

Dr. CHEN Jian enrolled at Tsinghua University in 1978, initially pursuing a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering. Over the years, he advanced academically, earning a master's degree in Automation and beginning his Ph.D. studies in the same field. His interdisciplinary background provided him with a diverse knowledge base. In 1987, Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM) began recruiting to strengthen its economics and management disciplines. Following his Ph.D. advisor, Professor ZHENG Weimin, CHEN transitioned to Tsinghua SEM, where he continued his doctoral studies. Since completing his Ph.D. in 1989, he has remained at the school, contributing to its academic mission as a faculty member.

Driven by a passion for scientific inquiry, Dr. CHEN has consistently tackled research challenges. To stay at the forefront of international academic advancements, he frequented major libraries, studying foreign documents in photocopy format, enhancing his academic acumen. His doctoral thesis was acclaimed as an outstanding dissertation at Tsinghua University. Dr. CHEN received the China Youth Science and Technology Award in 1992 for his scholarly contributions. Reflecting on this achievement, he says, "I was filled with joy when I received the award, as it is given across all fields only every two years and is limited to no more than 100 recipients each time. The competition is exceptionally fierce."

In 1997, supported by Tsinghua SEM, Dr. CHEN embarked on a five-month journey to the United States as a visiting scholar. He engaged in study and academic discourse at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during this period. "The diligent and progressive faculty, top-notch classroom instruction of the MBA program, and the managerial insights it imparted, as well as the immersive and comprehensive learning environment, deeply impressed me," he says. This experience marked a shift in his professional trajectory, transitioning from systems engineering to management science and engineering.

He has been a principal investigator for over 50 grants or research contracts with the National Science Foundation of China, governmental organizations, and companies. Presently, Dr. CHEN's research group is dedicated to in-depth inquiries into topics such as "supply chain management in the era of digital intelligence" and "enterprise operations and management oriented towards ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance)." Their objective is to address the practical needs of the nation and society. Internationally, Dr. CHEN has assumed leadership roles as the chair of international conferences and has served as chief editor, editorial board member, or advisor for over ten international academic journals.

Dr. CHEN was the head of the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Tsinghua SEM for many years. In this role, he prioritized student development strategies aligned with global benchmarks, focusing on nurturing academic talents with an international vision.

In 2009, Dr. CHEN Jian, alongside professors David D. Yao, Jim Dai, and Xiuli Chao in the school's Special-Term Professorship program, established an international workshop on the frontiers of operations management (Mostly OM). This annual workshop is hosted by Tsinghua University's Research Center for Contemporary Management and invites influential international scholars and rising academic stars to share their latest research results. The event is packed with attendees and is one of the significant academic exchange events in management science and engineering.

"Through our dedication to creating a top international academic exchange platform, we help faculty and doctoral students stay abreast of the latest international academic trends and align their research with the international forefront," Dr. CHEN says. In recent years, doctoral graduates from the Department of Management Science and Engineering have taken faculty positions at universities in the US, UK, Netherlands, Singapore, and China's Hong Kong region, reflecting the academic community's recognition of the school's excellence in talent cultivation.

The fifth Mostly OM, hosted by Tsinghua University's Research Center for Contemporary Management, was held at Tsinghua SEM in 2014.

The Special-Term Professorship Program was initiated by Tsinghua SEM in 2002 to attract Chinese professors holding tenured positions overseas in economics, finance, and management science and engineering. These esteemed professors were invited to contribute to the school during their sabbaticals, assuming dual roles of teaching doctoral students and collaborating with faculty members on research projects.

"At that time, we aimed to identify the most active scholars in the field. Through their teaching and academic collaboration, they played an important role in advising doctoral students and young faculty members, elevating our doctoral education standards and the overall research level of the school," Dr. CHEN recalls. "Not only did students and teachers from our school attend, but many doctoral students and young faculty members from other departments within the university, as well as Peking University and other universities, were also attracted."

The Special-Term Professorship Program yielded positive outcomes and contributed to various aspects of the school's development. It spurred innovation, enhanced the curriculum system, established academic exchange platforms, guided research work, and cultivated high-end research talents.

CHEN Jian in the classroom

Standing at the 40th-anniversary celebration of Tsinghua SEM, Dr. CHEN Jian recalls the Founding Dean ZHU Rongji's earnest instructions: "Help our students excel and research Chinese enterprises well." "China's scale is large, and its position in the world is too important. If we can help Chinese enterprises grow bigger and stronger and enhance their international competitiveness, then to some extent, it will impact the world," he says.

Dr. CHEN Jian holds high hopes for young faculty members: "Our generation has served more as a bridge. The new generation of young faculty has the potential to emerge as leaders of the international academic community, propelling Tsinghua SEM to a leading international position. This is both our mission and expectation," Dr. CHEN says.