In DepthHigher Education

Biologist unveils China's first private research university

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Science  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 856
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6378.856

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Shi Yigong has never shied away from risky career moves. In 2008, the structural biologist turned down a $10 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, for his work on programmed cell death and relinquished an endowed chair at Princeton University to relocate to Beijing, because, he says, he felt he could "play a much more important role in a rapidly transforming country." His latest move may be even more audacious: Shi, 50, has resigned as a vice president of one of China's premier institutions, Tsinghua University in Beijing, to launch a small university in southeastern China, near Hangzhou's scenic West Lake. Westlake University, which Shi is pitching as the nation's first private research university, will focus on natural sciences, medical sciences, and engineering. Observers say Westlake could become a beacon on China's higher education landscape.