Celebrating 100 years of excellence

Nankai University 100th Anniversary

From a modest homeschool on the banks of Balitai in the old city of Tianjin, Nankai University has transformed over the last century into one of the most esteemed educational institutions in modern Chinese history.


I am very pleased to see this “Special Collection” published by Elsevier for celebrating the 100th anniversary of Nankai university. This “Special Collection” consists of 123 excellent papers authored by faculty of Nankai University from 2014 to 2018, which are among the top 1% of the most cited papers worldwide. The publication of this “Special Collection” is a wonderful opportunity to present to the academic community the outstanding scientific research achievements Nankai University has accomplished in the past five years. For the convenience of readers, the 123 papers are categorized into 11 subjects with introduction on the history, current status and research characteristics of each subject. In this way, readers can quickly browse the latest and foremost influential research results of different subjects as well as get a grasp of each subject of Nankai University.

Established in 1919 by patriotic educators Yan Xiu and Zhang Boling, Nankai University is a leading multidisciplinary research-oriented public university in China and ranks 10th among all Chinese universities in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Ranking. It features a balance between humanities and sciences, emphasizes the importance of doing basic and cutting-edge research, and promotes an integration of scientific creativity and application. Nankai’s motto is “Dedication to public interests, acquisition of all-round capability, and aspiration for progress with each passing day”. In the past 100 years, Nankai has constantly adhered to the tradition of serving the nation and the public, and has cultivated many remarkable talents, including Premier Zhou Enlai, physicist Wu Ta-you, mathematician Chern Shiing-shen, playwright Cao Yu and many other political leaders, scientists, artists, economists, etc.

As Nankai University enters the new century and strides forward to build itself into a world-class university and develop world-class disciplines, we have recently launched the “Seeking Excellence” plan, which has clearly marked out the development blueprint of reviving humanities and social sciences, promoting natural sciences, enhancing engineering and developing biomedicine. Through the implementation of this plan, we want to put forward an overall university reform, promote interdisciplinary research, enhance international collaborations, attract talented researchers, cultivate innovative students and increase our global influence.

Solving the major scientific problems in human society requires an integrative research approach. To encourage cooperation between scientists with various backgrounds at Nankai University, we are establishing 10 on-campus interdisciplinary research centers based on the national strategic needs and our existing strength. Each center will address one major scientific issue, such as new energy, material science.

Internationalization is one important part of the “Seeking Excellence” plan. In order to increase our global influence and strengthen our collaborations with top international universities, we plan to build 10 joint research centers abroad, focusing on important issues such as health, energy, environment and sustainable development. At present, joint research centers respectively with University of Oxford and University of Birmingham are under construction. Student and faculty mobility are integral parts of internationalization, to which Nankai University is committed and will provide more grants to support the international exchange for students and young faculty members, cultivating talents with global vision.

Recruiting talents is also an important part of our plan. We launched a series of talent-oriented initiatives to attract prominent scholars, academic leaders, young talents and innovative research teams for seeking a sustainable development. We will provide customized schemes to facilitate talents to settle down and establish laboratories.

Elsevier has won a good reputation in fields like science & technology publishing, data analysis, and so on. Based on the various successful cooperative projects, Nankai University has established long-term and strategic partner relations with Elsevier. This “Special Collection” is one prime example of our good partnership. We really appreciate the time and effort Elsevier put into this collection.

Nankai University is permanently committed to achieving excellence in higher education and research. And conducting good researches and publishing excellent papers surely make an important part of this pursuit. I believe the publication of this “Special Collection” will encourage our faculty and students to work harder and produce more excellent research results to reinforce our international academic reputation and broaden our existing cooperation with academic institutions as we head towards the next hundred years.

Xuetao CaoXuetao Cao

Professor and President

Nankai University
Tianjin, China



Special collection

To celebrate the centennial of Nankai University, this curated collection of 123 articles—published by Nankai University and selected by prestigious Nankai University faculty members—highlights the institution’s scholarly achievements and features innovative scientific research across eleven subject areas. Taken together, this collection demonstrates the powerful impact that Nankai University has had on advancing the field of scientific inquiry.


cell press

combining the highest-quality science in the life and physical sciences with innovations in technology and publishing practices

the lancet

the world's leading independent general medical journal publishing the best science for better lives


the Lancet’s premium biomedical open access journal bridging the gap between basic and clinical research

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A beacon of learning: Past, Present, and Future

Founded in 1919 by educators Zhang Boling and Yan Xiu, Nankai University is one of the most prestigious interdisciplinary learning institutions in China. With a global reputation for excellence in research and scholarship,the university has a proud alumni network that includes Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, along with Wu Ta-You, Father of Chinese Physics, Jiang Zehan, Founder of China's Topology, renowned mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern, as well as many leading figures in China’s academic, government, and industry sectors.

Today, with nearly 28,000 students at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels, Nankai University has become well known both for its interdisciplinarity and for the quality of its research and graduates. With 26 academic colleges across the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and business fields, categories of specialization cover literature, history, philosophy, economics, management, law, science, engineering, agriculture, medicine, education and art.

Driven by its motto of “dedication to public interests, acquisition of all-round capability, and aspiration for progress with each passing day,” the university has earned numerous national and international awards for academic excellence, scientific achievements, technological innovation, and outstanding collaborative research. Nankai University is consistently ranked among top-10 lists of Chinese Universities, and as one of the “First Class Universities” within the Chinese government’s “Double First Class University Initiative,” Nankai University is well on track to becoming an elite word-class university by the end of 2050.


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Interviews with prominent Nankai alumni