Chao-Yang Lu is a physics professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, focusing on quantum foundations, computation and communications. Lu is one of 10 physicists profiled in the March issue of Physics World to launch our new Ask Me Anything careers advice column
What skills do you use every day in your job?
As an independent researcher, the most important skill is to find the “interesting” problems that I know I would be thrilled to solve, and potentially have the ability to solve. The skill required in finding such problems to solve improves with time, as your research experience grows, and you interact with senior scientists. Other skills include keeping up to date with new research by finding and reading (at least at a glance) new papers regularly. I have weekly group meetings to manage projects, to get an update on each student’s progress, and to solve problems together. I encourage my students to think critically and train their writing skills to make their thoughts more visible and clearer.
What do you like best and least about your job?
What I like the most is the freedom to explore the unknown. I get happiness from solving scientific problems that were thought to be insurmountable before – but we now have the answers for. And there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing my students graduate and flourish in their own careers.
What do you know today that you wish you knew when you were starting out in your career?
Direction and vision. Pick research topics that are either very fundamental and have a long-lasting impact, or have practical applications that can benefit society and the world at large.