The National Natural Science Foundation of China recently awarded funds to four research projects from the Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Mathematics and Physics Centre, which is based in the School of Science. The projects earned NSFC 2021 awards of 200,000 to 700,000 RMB each.

The funded projects are as follows:

  • Disruption of open clusters in the galactic disk by Dr Xiaoying Pang of the Department of Physics
  • Combinatorial complexes and geometric structures on surfaces by Dr Robert Tang of the Department of Pure Mathematics
  • Coxeter polytopes and four-dimensional hyperbolic manifolds by Dr Fangting Zheng of the Department of Pure Mathematics
  • Theory and algorithms of algebraic differential and difference equations based on symbolic computation by Dr Yi Zhang of the Department of Foundational Mathematics.

Studying star clusters with AI

Dr Xiaoying Pang of the Department of Physics uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to study the formation and evolution of star clusters. She received NSFC funds to further her research.

AI enables Dr Pang to examine vast quantities of star cluster data. She researches the morphology of star clusters from different locations and across the ages, seeking to obtain star clusters’ evolutionary sequence.

"The article we published online in February containing the latest research data has been downloaded more than 10,000 times,” Dr Pang says. “This is encouraging because it shows our results have been read and our persistence has been acknowledged.

“Since publication, scholars from different countries have contacted us to enquire about the data, leading us to work hard to ensure our scientific research is competitive.

"I am very grateful to my colleagues for their collaboration with me. We cooperated well and motivated each other.

“It is a milestone to have my research project funded by the NSFC General Programme. I consider it as NSFC acknowledging our scientific research process and achievements.”

Dr Pang says the funding not only will provide resources for promising students, but also will enable expansion of the research.

Exploring the unexplored

Dr Robert Tang of the Department of Pure Mathematics researches the intersection of geometric group theory and low-dimensional topology. Dr Tang says he is glad the NSFC Young Scientists Fund will support his study of emerging problems in this relatively new and unexplored field. He expressed his gratitude for translation assistance from his colleagues and the Research Management Office when he worked to create Mandarin-based applications.

If at first you don’t succeed

Dr Fangting Zheng of the Department of Pure Mathematics bounced back after her first application to receive a NSFC failed. Her research fields are geometric topology, hyperbolic geometry and the Coxeter group and its application, with a focus on the geometry and topology of high-dimensional hyperbolic manifolds and orbifolds.

During the second application, she learnt from her first unsuccessful attempt and sought opinions from researchers who had the same experience. She also consulted her doctoral degree advisor and colleagues in the Academy and modified the research plan based on NSFC feedback. As a result, her research project received an award from the NSFC Young Scientists Fund.

Try, try again

Like Dr Zheng, Dr Yi Zhang from the Department of Foundational Mathematics also earned NSFC funds after a second attempt. His research focus is computer algebra, algorithmic combinatorics and cryptography. After his first try, Dr Zhang improved his research proposal based on previous successfully funded project proposals. Also like Dr Zheng, his project received an award from the NSFC Young Scientists Fund.

Dr Conghua Wen, President of the Centre and Deputy Dean of the School of Science, acknowledged the researchers’ achievements.
"Applying for a scientific research fund is not just about a research idea. It is the result of extensive accumulation of academic and literature knowledge in early years. Our research staff has a solid foundation," he says.

Dr Wen also says he hopes that research staff receiving funds establish a team to provide mutual support and facilitate improvement. He expects academic staff members who have research talent and a solid research foundation to join the team.

By Luyao Wang

Translated by Ke Tang

Edited by Robert Fraass and Tamara Kaup

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