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在南开最初的三个月
    Christian Reidys
    雷吉仕

来中国工作是我人生的重大抉择。当一个人远渡重洋,背井离乡,来到一个完全陌生的地方,独自面对生活环境和生活方式如此巨大的改变的时候,很难预料他会怎么想,怎么做。今年一月底到达北京机场的时候,我所知道的只有三件事。第一,我将要工作的地方,南开大学,是一所很好的大学; 第二,曾经在Los Alamos实验室愉快共事的陈永川教授,我们一直是好朋友;第三,南开的学生是我在Los Alamos实验室就早有了解,他们非常积极并且具有很高的天赋。

去年七月份,我曾受邀到组合数学中心访问讲学,接触了很多中心的老师和工作人员。这使我在因素繁多的艰难抉择中,更加坚定地选择南开大学。因为只有这里才是我实现人生目标,建立一个优秀的计算生物学团队最理想的地方。

现在,三个月过去了,事实证明我的选择是正确的。在这三个月期间,我和中心的师生建立了深厚的友谊。组合数学中心的每一位老师,无论是品格还是专业素养都具有相当高的水准。中心的学生也令我十分满意,在研究中我们合作得非常愉快。中心的学生勤奋、刻苦,并且非常专注于他们的研究工作。举个例子来说,如果我对学生提出的某个证明思路在几小时以内没有反馈意见,他就一定会有跑来问过我认为他的思路如何。我很喜欢这种互相启发、互相激励的工作环境,这正是迸发学术灵感与创造性思维所必须的。

一切进展顺利。三月初我们开始了新学年卓有成效的工作。截止到现在,在来到南开这短短三个月的时间里,我们已经投稿学术论文1篇,正在准备并即将投稿2篇。我必须强调,在这即将投稿的两篇文章之中,有一篇解决了困扰生物数学界多年的伪扭结计数问题。

这种惊人的速度正是我和同事们以及同学们潜心钻研,努力工作的结果。每天,当我早上8点左右来到中心的时候,大多数师生已经开始工作了。而晚上11点的时候,我们都是被“赶出”伯苓楼的。很多时候,我就坐在伯苓楼门外的台阶上和学生们激烈讨论。

午饭的时候,我们也总是习惯带着铅笔和稿纸,在等待上菜的间隙互相讨论当天上午的成果,一分钟的浪费在我们的眼中都是不可容忍的。如果我吃得太慢了,我的学生就会礼貌地提醒我到了该回中心工作的时候了。甚至有的时候,我们一天只吃一顿饭。

团队合作中良性的竞争是不可避免的,但是在我们这个狂热的学术“大家庭”里,我们的目标是一致的。这让我们的团队更加优秀,而我也相信这是整个团队的共识。为了实现这个目标,我们每个人都在竭尽全力地工作。晚上离开办公室的时候我们仍然还有问题要讨论,我们常常用这种形式结束一天的工作。这种工作方式只有在融洽、积极的工作环境中才可能实现。我们知道并不是每一个研究机构都有这种环境。只有在充分合作,互相支持的基础上,每天10到13 小时的连续工作才能得以顺利进行。

我即将返家探亲一个月,不可避免地要离开这个团队一段时间。我十分遗憾至今自己还没有机会更多地了解中国。一旦这个研究团队的工作节奏稳定下来,我希望有机会学习更多中国的语言和文化。我现在工作的首要任务就是,让计算生物数学团队尽快像陈永川教授率领的组合数学团队那样用高质量的论文得到学术界的认可。

我和同事们相处非常愉快。在一次聚餐之前,他们幽默地警告我说现在是扔下笔纸,喝“bear”的时候了。“bear”背后有个有趣的小故事,有一次我和陈永川教授一起到餐厅吃饭,服务员问我是否需要“bear”。 我当时听了很惊讶,真以为中国人什么都吃。而陈教授很快反应过来,显然是服务员把“beer”(啤酒)读成了“bear”(熊)。他告诉我:“不要害怕bear,让我们一起来一杯青岛bear。”这确实是我在中国经历的一件难以忘怀的事情。

中心的师生对我的一切都很重视,他们尽量帮我安排好一切。每天下班之前,会有人提醒我:“Reidys教授,还有十分钟就该走了。”这样,我总是可以从容地收拾好东西,离开办公室。只有一件事情不能由他们代劳,那就是在购房合同上签上我的中国名字。这是我第一次写汉字,还必须要写得端正。我的朋友们非常耐心地教我如何书写自己的中文名字,并且陪同我一起完成整个购房过程。我被照顾得无微不至。为了让我能喝上新鲜的咖啡,他们甚至为我提供了上等的哥伦比亚咖啡豆,并送给我一个很精巧的手动咖啡研磨机。当然这唯一的理由就是“把咖啡转换成定理”。所以,每天早上你都能看到我磨着我的咖啡豆,那是我在准备开始一天的工作。

(2007年4月15日)

相关链接:

Christian Reidys教授为什么来南开 ---陈永川

Christian Reidys教授个人主页

[英文原稿]

The First Three Months

Christian Reidys

It was a big step when I arrived at the end of January this year at the Beijing airport. Clearly, it is impossible to predict how one feels and react to that number of changes in lifestyle and also separated from your family. What I did know is that Nankai is a very good university and that Professor Chen, with whom I had the pleasure working with in Los Alamos is a very good friend. What I did know is that the students whom I got to know over the years in Los Alamos are very likeable and gifted.

Also I visited Nankai University in July last year and met researchers and staff. The decision was not easy whether or not to go to Nankai as many factors played a role. I finally decided for the place best suited for realizing my goal, to build a group in computational biology.

Now, after 3 months working at Nankai I can say that my high expectations have been met. The quality and moral of my fellow professors many of which have become friends met my expectations and the students are a pleasure to work with. If I don’t react within a few hours to the latest write up of some proof ideas I am guaranteed to have the student ask me what I think about his/her latest ideas. They really are behind their work. I enjoy this a lot as it reflects a stimulating and encouraging environment. Such an environment is in fact vital for the promotion of creative thinking and coming up with new ideas.

Things are moving. We have started due to new-years celebrations by the beginning of March and have already submitted one and are about to finish two further research papers produced in this new group. I also have to stress the point that these papers address hard questions in the field, one being the enumeration of RNA pseudo-knot structures.

This enormous speed is a consequence of the attitude of my colleagues and students. When I come around 8, most of my students have already arrived and when I leave at 11 we have to be literally “pushed” out of the building.

Many times I find myself sitting at the steps of the entrance debating the most efficient to prove something. Over lunch we always bring pen and paper and discuss the results of the morning among each other, not one minute is wasted. I can already tell when I eat too slowly and my party feels its time to “get serious” and to get back to the center. Of course everybody is very polite but I know when its time to hurry. By the way, we sometimes end up with only one meal per day.

Teamwork is often endangered by competition in such situations, but here we are a crazy family but a family pulling in one direction. There is a distinct perception about what helps the group and I guess people are just aware of that. Now to make that point, while walking back to the hotel tonight, I will discuss a new paper with colleagues and this is the usual ending of a typical day here at the Center. Work like this is only possible when the work environment is smooth and support staff is really helpful. This is not typical for all academic institutions. 10-13 hours work in your office is simply only possible when there is help in numerous ways.

So soon I will go home for a month and already be part of a community which I will start to miss. I certainly would not have expected this. However, once a certain rhythm within the group is founded I hope to have the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and language. I have not had the opportunity to do so and have started regretting this. But first thing’s first. It is vital to make “us” known by high quality papers as Professor Chen has already established so well in Combinatorics.

By now my colleagues know me well enough. When a staff dinner is scheduled I am properly warned that the pen has to be dropped and it’s time for a bear. There was a funny story about the bear. When I went to a restaurant with Professor Chen, the waitress asked me, “Would you like to have a bear?” While I was in astonishment, Professor Chen figured out what was going on, he smiled and said to me, “Don’t be afraid of the bear. Let’s have a Qingdao bear.” This was really an unforgettable story I experienced in China.

In reducing time intervals someone will politely interrupt and let me know “Professor Reidys, its 10 min before we leave” and I was assured I’ll be picked up right on time from my office so that there would be no concern that I may be forgotten. One thing I could not get help with was signing my name in Chinese letters. This was required when I signed the contract to buy an apartment. Very patiently my friends waited while I went through this procedure after I was given a Chinese name. It is very difficult when you do this the first time and the situation required that I made a decent job. However, this was one of the rare events where I could not get help. I even get special coffee, of course for the sole purpose to convert it into theorems. For being able to prepare the coffee freshly I received a hand coffee-mill. So you can see me “cranking” the mill in the morning when I grind my beans.

(April 15th, 2007)


南开大学组合数学中心