Award-winning professor Lei Tao talks about his work on de novo polymer design and his proudest career moments so far.
We are trying to reveal the relationship between molecular structures and polymer functions for the de novo design of new functional polymers. This will help us discover unprecedented polymers and materials with antibacterial, antioxidant, antitumor, and antiradiation functions. The impact we hope to achieve is to prepare new generation polymers and make the design and synthesis of functional polymers a rule-based science.
In the past 2 years, I have experienced two of my career highlights: I was chosen as a Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher in 2018 and 2019, and won a Publons Peer Review Award in 2019. I have worked with many excellent scientists and they inspire me to keep reaching for new achievements – they are always curious in finding new things and helping more people by using science. I really enjoy their attitude and want to be the same.
Finding the unique advantages of polymers compared with small molecules is what inspires me to keep researching in this area. I’m also excited about developments in other areas of science like biomaterials, including self-healing hydrogels. We actually don’t know where our research will take us in 10 years. Just as 10 years ago, I couldn’t see what we are doing today. But we will try our best to change the world.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve the Next Great Impossible?
A: Keep your curiosity. If I had advise to give a younger scientist, I'd like to say no matter how far you go, don't forget why you started.