Research focus

My research work mostly concerns the development of polymeric membranes and lies in particular on 3 major axes including (i) the formation of membranes and antifouling membranes by in-situ modification, (ii) the design of oil/water separation membranes and (iii) the development of porous biocompatible membranes for blood filtration or wound-healing of chronic and acute wounds. In general, we try to simplify the membrane formation processes in order to enhance the chances for mass production. This implies to gain control over the membrane formation mechanisms (kinetic and thermodynamic aspects) and to strengthen our knowledge of the parameters that can influence the final membrane structure. The reference journal in my field is Journal of Membrane Science. Therefore, we try to have our membrane research works published in this journal, which we have done a quite good number of times in the past few years. Otherwise, we try to get our work published in ACS journals such as ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces or RSC journals such as Journal of Materials Chemistry B. I am currently finishing one MOST project and am running two other MOST projects as a PI including an Outstanding Young Researcher project (專題研究計畫(優秀年輕學者研究計畫) that started in August 2017. Besides, I am involved in several international MOST/ANR projects with French universities (Université de Montpellier and Université de Toulouse).

Experience sharing

I received most of my education (BSc, MSc, PhD) in Université Montpellier 2, France, which recently merged with other Universities to become Université de Montpellier. While I was in my last year of PhD, I was looking for postdoctoral positions in my country or worldwide, and I had the chance to be given several opportunities. I chose to come to Taiwan at the R&D Center for Membrane Technology of CYCU, following my PhD mentors’ advice, who were convinced that I could conduct nice research work there and meet great researchers. I packed and moved. That was at the end of November 2010 and I am still here now. I guess it is because I found a very good environment and met great students, research assistants, researchers and professors who made me grow as a faculty. I am still in the progress of learning but well, I can probably share some of the things with young researchers and scholars about my work.

(1) Be grateful of being a professor and manage your time well

There is not one day that goes through when I don’t tell myself that I have the best job in the world. We have flexibility, large freedom of time management and choices of research directions. We can almost decide when/where to work, as long as the job is done. We have the choice to make good use of the extended and multiple times off that we have. During the weeks, week-ends, winter, spring and summer breaks, there are numerous moments when we don’t have to teach. Does it mean that we are on vacation? No, and even though I am often being asked at the end of June by people who are not in the system “what are you going to do during your 2 month vacation?” It is our responsibility to decide to make good use of the time we have. There is not going to be anyone constantly checking at what we are doing. In addition, we have the freedom to decide to investigate other directions, wherever our curiosity leads us. This is something that not many jobs offer. I am grateful for it.

(2) Observe and be inspired by people around you

I have had the chance to meet numerous professors in my department or other departments, or in other universities, from the very first moment I stepped in Taiwan. Many of them have something which I think is exceptional and which I wish I had, and I am trying to be inspired by them. Leadership, work-ethic, responsibility, kindness, humility, etc… Many professors here combine several of the key elements to become a great professor. Although I do not fully understand the language, I think that I can quickly identify what is great in these people. So I try to study them and see how they became that successful. Of course, I am aware that the world is not all black and white but colored in shades of grey instead. Well, I just try to focus on the good things.

(3) Identify the key people in your field and study them

My field (like any other field) is leaded by “key” researchers distributed in all regions of the world. I have had the chance to talk to some of them in symposium, conferences or lab visits, and I spent time “studying” them. I read their papers, read their lab introduction and tried to discuss with them to try to figure how they worked. All of them have a common passion for their work, which drives them out of bed at sunrise and keeps them awake till late. Their writing time is quite limited, due to their busy meeting schedule, but yet manage to either write very early before “normal” people wake-up or late, when people usually go home after work. They all have a strong work-ethic, and, despite their numerous outstanding achievements, most of these people I have met look simple, kind and humble.

(4) Get a clear picture of what you want to become

I have been having that clear goal in my mind of what I want to become since I started my PhD. It’s been a while now (> 10 years) and there is not one day that passes by I don’t think about it. I have not reached it yet but I believe that I am on the right way. This goal drives me every day and helps me stay motivated. I can understand that after some years of experience, the job routine can slow things down and make people lose their motivation. But if we constantly set goals, not matter how realistic they may look in the first place or sound to the people, then there is always going to be that driving force that keeps us moving forward.

(5) Work hard and be consistent to stay away from average

Being average equals to staying in the comfortable zone, looking for easiness rather than for challenges. It is easy to be average in work, sport, music or whatever domain. It is much harder to be better than average. In many situations, I realize I am just average, and I just do not like this feeling. So I am trying to work a little bit harder to stand out in whatever I think it is worth it to stand out in order to reach my goals. As a sports enthusiast, I like to watch top athletes perform and always keep in mind that the perfection of their gestures performed in the light comes from thousands of hours in the gyms and on the pitch, hours spent rehearsing in the dark when nobody is watching. I believe in talent, but I do not believe that lack of talent can stop anyone. Lack of talent cannot fail anyone, lack of work will. So let’s say I believe more in work than in talent. That fake secret that everyone knows is hard work, no matter how talentless one is. I have no talent. But I have learned to accept my “talentlessness” and found that if I want something, I can get it through working harder than others. Consistency matters a lot too. Nothing happens by providing a huge amount of work in a small amount of time and then resting for a huge amount of time. Repeating the efforts is essential to ensure sustainability of successful outcome. Obviously, people around me help me/motivate me/inspire me a lot to try to be consistent in hard work.

(6) Try to do something different

Most journals require the authors to provide a short list of their work highlights. This list summarizes the novel aspects of their work. These highlights should also clearly appear in the abstract, graphical abstract and introduction of their study. Novelty is clearly something that is going determine whether a manuscript is going to be published, as well as the impact of the journal it is going to be published in. To my opinion, extra care has to be put on (i) the description of the highlights, (ii) the writing of the abstract and (iii) the design and organization of the figures. Of course, it is difficult to change and do something totally different from what we did during our PhD or postdoctoral training, but one must try to slowly step out of that way, and use their skills to think things a bit differently in order to do something not done before by their former advisers or colleagues in the field. It also requires a lot of reading and paper reviewing for journals, to constantly be aware of the state of the art is.

(7) Identify the strengths/weaknesses of your students and spend time with them

We are lucky to have numerous people in the group. Everyone has one/several strengths that would be hard to replace if they decided to leave the group. This is, to my opinion, what we should focus on as group leaders. Some students are excellent at performing experiments or in management, while others stand out in data analysis, figure plotting, teaching to their juniors, computation, or even paper writing. One of my objective is to encourage students to become even stronger at what they are already good at and to acquire other skills. As a professor, I need these skills in the lab. I need people to perform tests, I need graduate students to teach to undergraduate students, I need people to help me write. If I get to know my students well, if I take enough time to speak to my students and ask them what they like to do, what they are interested in, then I guess I can take full advantage of our manpower.

(8) Numbers are not all that matters

At the end of the day, there are much more important things in life than the number of papers. I have noticed that people in the scientific community have a tendency to show off these numbers. But numbers can be interpreted in different ways. I may have n papers but my field is Chemical Engineering. It is probably easier to get published in this field than in many other fields. Besides, out of these n papers, how many did I actually write? How many did I actually edit? How many are cited? How many pushed my field? How many are published in Q1 SCI journals? How many are in high impact factor journals (top 10%)? For how many of them am I 1st or corresponding author? More importantly, can I actually tell people the story behind each of these papers, that is, take full responsibility for what’s been written? I am the only one to have the answers to all of these questions. I would like to tell younger people: keep your numbers on the low, save them to apply research proposals, it is not necessary at all to brag about it.