Students meet with top scientists at the Future Forum in Beijing in October. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
While it is celebrities and entrepreneurs that are usually in media spotlight, the Future Forum recently put the focus on scientists.
The forum, held in October in Beijing, brought together top scientists from around the world to share their enthusiasm for research and inspire upcoming scientists.
University of Science and Technology Beijing student Tan Zhiyang had been anticipating the forum for almost a year. He believed it would showcase the forefront of science.
"I am currently facing the pressure of choosing my field of study," says the 19-year-old junior physics major who missed last year's event. "I want to find out what those top scientists are thinking about."
While listening to a variety of lectures on subjects ranging from astrophysics, quantum physics to computer science and artificial intelligence, Tan says he gained a better understanding of quantum physics and developed an interest in materials science.
Tan was especially intrigued by Yang Peidong's research on artificial photosynthesis and Cui Yi's presentation on the application of nanomaterials in new energy. He also paid attention to the obstacles those scientists are encountering.
"Getting to know the difficulties they are facing can be quite beneficial," he says. "Our generation can take up those challenges."
This year's event also added a new session - Conversation Between Teenagers and the Future Science Prize Laureates. Students were invited to attend and talk face-to-face with Shi Yigong, Pan Jianwei and Xu Chenyang, the winners of the 2017 Future Science Prize.
Tian Siyuan, 14, from Beijing Academy, a school, asked Pan, the winner of physical science prize, a question related to the application of quantum physics. She was fascinated by this subject when she was reading the award-winning Chinese sci-fi novel, The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin.
"I am interested in how scientists conduct their research and the way they present their accomplishments," says Tian. "What they have been doing is meaningful, which inspires me to be someone like them."
The youth forum was both inspiring and educational. The laureates not only shared their personal stories and their cutting-edge research, but also touched upon topics including interdisciplinary education, the public's attitude toward science and gender equality in science.
Cai Jiahong, 16, from Beijing No 4 High School International Campus, was encouraged by the answer of Shi, who won the life science prize, about gender equality.
After the forum, her concerns about being a female physicist were reassured as she realized women can play an important role in scientific advancement.
"We should not be intimidated by titles such as 'female scientists' and 'female PhDs'," says Cai, who once won a national physics competition prize. "It's more important to pursue what we truly desire rather than worrying about others' perception about you."
The questions asked by the young attendees were highly acclaimed by the laureates for their creativity, relevance and depth.
In a video interview, Pan encouraged those intending to pursue a career as scientists to be true to themselves. "The future belongs to the young generation," said Pan.