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Student wins acclaimed award from Chinese government

Tianxiang Nan, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering at Northeastern University, has been selected to receive the 2015 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad.

Sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Education, the award recognizes the academic accomplishments of Chinese graduate students that have conducted cutting-edge research at overseas colleges and universities. The honor—which is bestowed upon no more than 500 Chinese scholars out of a pool of some 400,000 each year—includes a $6,000 prize and a certificate of achievement issued by the China Scholarship Council.

The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China will present the prestigious award to Nan and his fellow winners at a ceremony in New York on Friday.

Nan grew up in Beijing, and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

His interest in magnetism drove him to choose Northeastern, where he connected with electrical and computer engineering professor Nian Sun, who currently serves as his faculty adviser. “My adviser was interested in my undergraduate research background,” Nan said, when asked to explain his selection, “and Northeastern is a hot spot for magnetics research.”

Over the past four years, Nan has been working as a research assistant in Sun’s lab. The Sun Group, as it’s called, is focused on designing novel magnetic, ferroelectric, and multiferroic materials for sensing devices, power electronics, and microwave subsystems—Nan’s research specialty.

Nan works at the probe station for device testing in the Advanced Materials and Microsystems Lab.

Nan works at the probe station for device testing in the Advanced Materials and Microsystems Lab while Sun observes the process.

Since 2011, Nan has published more than 30 papers in high-quality technical journals, including Advanced Materials, Nature Communications, and Applied Physics Letters. What’s more, he’s showcased his work at several international conferences: He’s given invited talks at two high-profile events—the Materials Science and Technology Conference as well as the International Conference of Young Researchers on Advanced Materials—and he’s been nominated for the best student presentation at the 2013 Conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, in Denver, Colorado, and the 2014 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Magnetics Conference, in Dresden, Germany.

His receipt of the award from the Chinese government, he said, is a tribute to the quality of his work as well as to Northeastern’s growing reputation as a cutting-edge research institution. “Receiving this award means that my work and my lab’s work is well-recognized by other people,” he said. “Northeastern’s reputation has grown very fast and our work is very good.”

Sun praised Nan, writing in his letter of recommendation to the award committee that he is deeply impressed with his intelligence, diligence, and willingness to share ideas with his colleagues. “Tianxiang has been among the couple of best graduate students in my research group in my nearly 10 years at Northeastern University, and I feel very fortunate to have him in my group,” he wrote. “I was also amazed at his ability to pick up new concepts and knowledge and quickly implement the experiments in new systems in our lab.”

Nan, PhD’15, is scheduled to graduate from Northeastern this summer, after which he plans to look for a full-time postdoctoral position. “I’d like to stay in academia and do research on the topics I like,” he said. “I want to be the one who comes up with ideas and who turns those ideas into reality.”

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