Prof.Lin Xu

有幸看到这位教授的经历, 很有启发, 遂摘录下来

Prof.Lin Xu

As a new ‘SISTor’ in ShanghaiTech, I feel very exciting, proud, and really lucky. Just the same as my dear colleagues who have shared their experiences, I would like to tell
you my own story. But my story will be a little different, I believe.

I was born in a small village in the south of Sichuan privince, where people were poor, struggling just for food and clothes. I had to stay at home for one year doing
nothing before meeting the age requirement of a primary school, just for saving 5 RMB. Although the financial situation was not good, my childhood was very happy,
because, as a child, I did not have any awareness about finance, Instead, what I had were plenty of play time, plenty of little fellows, and plenty of game places,
e.g., wild fields, small hills, and rivers. Moreover, we did not have any extra course. In this sense, we were much luckier than today’s kids, particularly the Shanghai kids.

I stood out soon after I went to the village’s primary school, especially in math. Like most of my dear colleagues, I also had a dream to become a scientist
or an engineer, even though I did not know what a scientist and an engineer really did. It turned out in my later life, this dream was too luxury.
Anyway, gradually, I became the so called ‘neighbor’s kid’ and also the hope of my family since it seemed possible for me to change my life by education,
which was the only way to leave the countryside for kid like me. Fortunately, I made it. In 1996, I graduated from the middle school with top ranking, meeting
the entrance requirements of the best high school in my home county as well as the technical secondary school.
As Prof.Pingqiang Zhou mentioned in the first issue of the SIS newsletter, in 1980s and early 1990s, graduation from a technical secondary school guaranteed a
job from the government or the state-owned enterprises, and it took only 3 or 4 years after middle school. Therefore, a technical secondary school was cost-effective
and usually the first choice for most of the best students from the countryside. But, actually, I preferred to go to the high school and then a university to pursue
my dream. Unfortunately, I had to give it up and picked a technical secondary school due to family’s financial situation.
This was the first time that I was aware of the impact of finance on my life.

Four years later, I graduated from the technical secondary school with honors and was offered to be recommended for admission to a university without
exams. Once again, I rejected this offer due to the same goddam financial reason, and then accepted the assigned job in a state-owned enterprise.
I still remember my first salary, i.e., 304 RMB, with which I started to live on myself and partially shouldered the burden of my family, e.g., supporting
my younger sister for her high school expenses. I was just 19 years old at that moment. Kids with this age should have sat in a spacious and bright classroom
absorbing all kinds of invaluable knowledge rather than struggling for living. I was just like half-grouted rice which should have enjoyed the warm sunshine
and sweet water and grown rapidly, but were harvested too early.

Back to my job. It was an ordinary worker rather than a cadre. An ordinary worker and a cadre were the two fundamental markers for employees
in a state-owned enterprise. You may have no idea how huge the gap between them was, but just keep in mind, most of the ordinary workers were
not able to cross this gap even exhausting the whole efforts of their entire career. Coming from the countryside without any social resource,
I did not think God would shed special light on me such that I could cross the gap, although I was almost there six years later.
Furthermore, I did not like the tasks of this job. I worked in a heat-treatment workshop. What I did was to put (manually) the metal material,
sometimes very large and heavy, into an electric resistance furnace and take them out after a certain period and then chill them with water or
special liquid, in order to alter their physical properties.
Today, some software engineers describe their work as ‘moving bricks’ with self-deprecating humor. But my work was really ‘moving metal’, seriously.
For me, it was just physical labor requiring no professional knowledge nor skills. Every health adult could do that after a couple of month training.
The only good thing was that, after work, I ate well, slept well, and never had hair-loss problem. But what was the value of my four-year study
in the techniical secondary school? And what about my childhood dream? Although I had to give up the opportunity to a university twice, I had never
given up my dream, ever. So what should I do?

Again, education became the straw which might be able to save my drowning life.
I took the self-study higher education examination, choosing mechatronics as my major, which was quite different from heat treatment
and therefore really challenging. I did the fulltime job and studied the machatronics in the late evening, during what time people
around me were having all kinds of fun. As indicated by the name ‘self-study’, I was totally on myself without any external help,
any teacher, nor any classmate. What I had were a textbook, a syllabus, and several copies of previous exams for each course.
Unlike today, it was not easy to get information through the internet since I could not even afford for a computer at that moment.
So basically I had to understand the textbook and figure out every single problem by my self.
One example, for the course ‘Microcomputer principle and interface technology’, there were lots of concepts I had never heard before.
The first time I just read it as a novel and tried to understand its structure. Then I repeated reading, thinking, reading, thinking, …,
and finally passed the exam with a score of 91. But this was only one course, and I had to pass more than 30 courses in order to obtain
a bachelor degree. The whole process took me six years, which were the most difficult but also the most valuable years in my life.
It was a treasure from the God, I guess, because as Mengzi said, if the God wanted you to do something really big, he would first blablabla…
So, thank you, my God, but what was the thing really big? Oh perhaps it was ShanghaiTech, I did not get it until recently.

After finishing the bachelor, I made a big decision: to take the National Graduate Entrance Examination (NGEE) with target at University
of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC). I believed it was this decision that led me to an academic career, and finally to
ShanghaiTech.
Just like throwing a little into the quiet water, this news spread soon all over the factory and resulted in quite some
surprise, doubt, laugh, …, but no trust.
I have seen all kinds of eyes and faces; from which I could hear sounds like ‘are you kidding?’, ‘it is impossible’, et al. Well, nothing
is impossible.
So just let it be. I ignored all sounds outside and was preparing for the exam following my own pace.

An even bigger news came two months later (three months before the NGEE): I rejected a promotion to a cadre (the League secretary)
because it was accompanied by the condition of giving up the NGEE.
As I said before, in a state-owned enterprise, the gap between a worker and a cadre was so huge that most workers could not cross
it during their entire career.
So in all people’s minds, I should grab this opportunity. However, they were not me, the ‘stupid’ guy who chose the NGEE which was
labeled as impossible. To be honest, I alse cloud not predict the NGEE result at that moment. But what I knew was the this was my
last chance to a university pursuing my dream, and if I missed this one I would miss it completely and would definitely regret it
in the rest of my life. I alse knew that I cloud live with the worst NGEE reult.
So why not? People did not understand me except for my family. My parents and two sisters always trusted me, encouraged me,
and supported me.
Other people felt like ‘are you crazy’? Yes, I was crazy. I was crazy because this time I could follow the inside of my heart without
considering the goddam finance. I was crazy alse because I felt so colse to my dream, only missing the final shot.
I felt full of energy in every single nerve and every single cell of my body.
As a man, I was fighting against the fate, which, I believe, should only be ontrolled in my own hands.

The biggest news came along with the warm sunshine and plaeasant spring breeze: I made it.
Again, I saw all kinds of interesting eyes and faces.
But this time, the underlying sounds were different.
The rest of my life was much easier.
I finished my master study at UESTC and then went to boroad for a Ph.D. at the Eindhoven University of Technology,
where I also did my postdoc training.
When I started looking for a faculty position, ShanghaiTech came into my mind immediately since I knew it quite a few years ago,
from my middle school classmate and friend, Prof. Ji Hu, assistant professor at SLST in ShanghaiTech.
It was interesting that, different from me choosing the techinical secondary school,
Ji went to the high school and then a university.
But this was not the point. The thing was that he was that he was a full professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University before joining
in ShanghaiTech as assistant professor in 2014. And he was not the only case.
I noticed, almost during the same period, another full professor at Nanjing University joined in ShanghaiTech as associate
professor, although he was promoted soon.
I was so surprised, just like people hearing that I rejected the cadre position.
I was curious about what kind of university ShanghaiTech was.
After extensive learning about her tenure-track system, founding and education philosophy, high academic freedom,
as well as the competitive salary and benefits, I understood their choices.
Since then, ShanghaiTech had become my dream insitute to develop an academic career.

Again I made it. I received the offer a couple of days after the on-site interview, and accepted it without hesitation.
I joined in ShanghaiTech in Sep.2019, with education and research interests focused on biomedical signal processing and
its application in neuromuscular rehabilitation and ambulatory health monitoring.
To me, like was miraculous. As you see, me and Ji started from the same village school, then followd two totally different
trajectories, but finally met again in ShanghaiTech, which confirmed, once again, the very old saying: ‘All roads lead to Rome’.
To make it more specific, perhaps I cloud say: ‘All roads lead to ShanghaiTech, sooner or later’. So, just be prepared and patient.
And, to make it even further, I would say ‘All roads lead to the same destination - end of the life’. So, just cherish and enjoy
every single minute and every single scene in our lives.

Author

Ndoskrnl

Posted on

2021-04-23

Updated on

2021-12-05

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