Dr. Haiyan Gao, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Duke Kunshan University and Henry Newson professor of physics at Duke University, was recently awarded the Overseas Chinese Returnees Contribution Award for Innovative Talent in recognition of her trailblazing contributions to nuclear physics and higher education in China.
“I am honored and also humbled by the award,” said Dr. Gao. “It is a great recognition of what my Chinese physics collaborators and I have been working hard on to elucidate the complex structure of the nucleon, and also a great recognition of the shared vision by colleagues at Duke Kunshan University, and also by our partners from Duke University, Wuhan University and the city of Kunshan.”
Dr. Gao received her B.S. degree from Tsinghua University in 1988 and Ph.D. in Physics from Caltech in 1994. She served as a staff scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory from 1996 to 1997, and then became an assistant professor of physics at MIT, where she was later promoted to Associate Professor. In 2002, Dr. Gao joined the Physics faculty of Duke University and was named Henry Newson Professor of Physics in 2012. Her previous postings also include the chair of the department of physics at Duke University, president of the International Organization of Chinese Physicists and Astronomers, and general councilor of American Physical Society. In 2015, she took the position of vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Duke Kunshan University with great passion.
As an internationally renowned nuclear physicist, Dr. Gao leveraged her academic expertise to take research on experimental hadron physics in China up a notch via talent programs including the Changjiang Scholar Program and the Thousand Talents Plan. Her research interests cover the structure of the nucleon, search for Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) exotic states, fundamental symmetry studies at low energy to search for new physics beyond the Standard Model of electroweak interactions, and the developments of polarized gas targets.
In addition to her academic achievements, Dr. Gao’s contribution to China’s higher education is also noteworthy. She has led Duke Kunshan University – a Sino-American partnership between Duke University, Wuhan University and the city of Kunshan to create a world-class liberal arts and research university, through almost two years of steady growth, and her knowledge and experience in higher education on both sides of the Pacific will continue to be an invaluable asset for the university.
Nominated by Kunshan Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and confirmed by All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, Dr. Gao was selected for the award as an outstanding example of returnees pioneering a cutting-edge field of study. The Overseas Chinese Returnees Contribution Award aims to recognize the innovative contributions made by recent returnees, and to encourage more overseas Chinese to return and serve in China in different capacities.