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March 26, 2010

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Avenues for improving life

EVERYTHING begins with the World Expo." As an important expression of human civilization, world expos have always tracked the progress of mankind. Over the past 150 years and longer, these expositions have introduced us to new ideas, concepts and technologies that became part of our development. Pooling the best that all countries have to offer has significantly promoted communication, convergence and integration among different civilizations in the world.

By creatively incorporating "city" into its theme, World Expo 2010 Shanghai China will explore the avenues for improving urban living. The five theme pavilions will focus on "urban dwellers," "urban beings," "urban planets," "urban footprints" and "urban dreams." Regarding city dwellers as the fundamental molecules of urban life and treating cities as organic components of our Mother Earth form a beautiful concept that embraces cultural reform, and scientific and technological innovation.

Viewed from the perspective of human history, the idea of "Better City, Better Life" gives us considerable food for thought. People have come together to form cities of distinctive character and cultural inheritance. The vicissitudes of cities impact all of Earth's life forms.

All these issues have helped me, as a molecular biologist accustomed to peering at the microscopic world, to turn my eyes skyward and re-examine the fundamental concepts of life. From the perspective of molecular biology, all life phenomena share the same nature. The ultimate purpose of our study of life sciences is to create a better world for mankind. Our common understanding of this value is the basis for the development of life sciences and may help us acquire in-depth knowledge about the origins and evolution of urban beings. Although new information technology, material sciences and energy patterns will keep reshaping cities in the future, they cannot change the nature of urban beings. In this age of globalization, our ability to soberly face challenges posed by issues such as energy, environment and resources and to build the beautiful homes of our dreams amid the torrents of urbanization depends on our deep understanding of the very nature of urban beings.

Tongji University has made great strides in enhancing public understanding of human nature. Cities are the mothers of universities; Shanghai founded Tongji after the city was opened as a port. Universities nourish the growth of cities. In its long history Tongji has contributed greatly to China's development with its work on national growth strategies and its innovative research in science and technology. In that sense, universities are the "brains" of cities. Or, more specifically, they are the "think tanks" and "wisdom pools" for the development of cities.

In the future, we will pay even greater attention to the cultivation of outstanding and innovative talent. We will endeavor to nurture those with engineering skills, scientific spirit, entrepreneurship and humanitarian accomplishments for the good of the community as a whole. We will stand at the forefront of trail-blazing in an international arena.

In the process, we won't forsake our traditional emphasis on excellence in engineering education. We want to foster outstanding and innovative engineers who possess solid theoretical foundations and the ability to apply them to the practical world. These people will be a core force in urban development.

Bearing in mind these goals and aspirations, Tongji has spared no effort in its support for World Expo 2010 Shanghai China. Its professors have been participating in critical aspects of this great event and include the chief designer of the Expo Park and the master planner of the Urban Best Practices Area. Our university has also undertaken the tasks of planning and designing landmark projects such as the theme pavilions and the Pavilion of Future as well as the overall project management for the construction work of the Expo Site. At the same time, our students have been helping publicize World Expo and many will participate as volunteers at the event.

World Expo 2010 Shanghai China will provide a golden opportunity for Tongji to show the world its achievements and academic excellence. Along with all my colleagues at Tongji, I am looking forward to the opening of World Expo with great excitement.

"A river grows wider at high tides, and plain sailing comes in the right winds." It is my hope that World Expo 2010 Shanghai China will write a splendid new chapter in the history of the Chinese nation by shining a light on mankind's dream of a better future and life in harmony with nature.


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