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Fresh PhD graduate becomes postdoc at 54, after dropping out of university 34 years ago

2021-10-14

A postdoctoral researcher at NSYSU Center of Crystal Research, Dr. Wei-Cheng Chen, had studied in his youth at the Department of Chemistry, but was so busy with club activities that he ended up dropping out of university in the second year. However, Chen vowed to himself to “stand up from where he fell”, and, at 44, he got admitted to NSYSU again, got his Bachelor and Master's degrees, and at 49, he started the PhD program at the Department of Materials and Optoelectronic Science, receiving a total financial support of NTD 1.72 million from the University. He worked hard for 5 years during his doctoral studies and has recently been employed as a postdoctoral researcher at NSYSU Center of Crystal Research, becoming a role model for lifelong learner.

Now 54 years old, Chen said that he was admitted to the Department of Chemistry over 30 years ago right after graduating from high school. When he was a student, he loved to have fun. "I was busy with club activities, I didn't do my homework, and so I was withdrawn in my sophomore year.” He later worked as a substitute teacher at a cram school for over 10 years. At 44, Chen realized that many of his former students from cram school succeeded in the academic field, and one even became a teacher at National Taiwan University. Unwilling to be just a “college dropout”, he decided to go back to university.

"Many students in my class were 20 years younger than me and thought I was an old man who came here to just get a diploma and has no genuine interest in studying.” Chen recalls that he let everyone astounded when he became the best student in his group; he was later recommended by his professor to join the semiconductor memory chip research team. “Operating expensive scientific equipment worth millions of dollars felt like driving a Rolls-Royce.” Upon getting his Master’s degree, he was admitted for the doctoral program and joined the research team of Professor Shiao-Wei Kuo of the Department of Materials and Optoelectronic Science. 10 years older than Professor Kuo, he felt old even in his PhD group. He worried that Professor Kuo would “treat him differently" because of age difference but in fact, he was just “one of the co-workers”, receiving the same solid and rigorous scientific training as other students.

In July this year, Chen realized his dream and got his PhD degree. He said that he is most grateful for the support of his family and the financial support of NSYSU. Over five years of his studies, he received funding of NTD 1.72 million in scholarships, research and teaching assistantships, and scholarships for corporate internship after winning an award for his research paper. “This was enough to cover all my tuition fees!” The financial support greatly reduced his economic pressure and allowed him to fully concentrate on his doctoral studies.

Chen’s doctoral thesis, “Development of a high thermal performance resin technology based on organic and inorganic nanoparticles” was published in a top international journal – Macromolecules, and other important journals, such as Macromolecular Rapid Communications and Polymer. During his doctoral program, he published 6 papers as the first author. He pointed out that his was the first research of this kind in Taiwan, aiming at improving the technology of the resin commonly known as plastic. He applied inorganic materials to produce DDSQ, a polymer, not only greatly improving its heat resistance and reducing dielectric properties, but also allowing it to be turned into a battery material. He has already done a cooperation with China Steel Corporation. “I never thought I could achieve all this in my middle age. I hope to make a contribution to the academic circles working on polymers in Taiwan!”
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