BEIJING, Jan. 8, 2016 (Xinhua) -- China's State Science and Technology Awards ceremony is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 8, 2016. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Two U.S. scientists, who were among the seven recipients of China's International Cooperation Award in Science and Technology on Friday in Beijing, said they were thrilled to be awarded the highest Chinese honor in science for foreigners.
"It is one of the greatest honors that a scientist can hope to achieve," Walter Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said of his first reaction when he first heard this honor.
Lipkin told Xinhua in an interview before the award ceremony that in 2013, at the height of the SARS outbreak, he was invited by the Chinese government to help assess the state of the epidemic and develop a strategy for containing the virus and reducing morbidity and mortality.
After the SARS outbreak was contained, he helped China create a series of centers aimed at more rapidly detecting and responding to emerging infectious disease threats.
Currently, Lipkin's academic efforts in China focused on areas such as mentoring young Chinese scientists, encouraging China-born scientists to return home for positions in drug diagnostics and discovery, and helping them prosper through technology transfer and collaboration.
He also served as a member of the Scientific Steering Committee member of the Joint Center for Global Change Studies at Beijing Normal University.
"I am pleased to say that China now has state of the art infectious disease research and surveillance and am proud to have participated in the birth of the new era of science in China that we are celebrating today," he said.
As to how to further promote Chinese-foreign science cooperation, he said China should build academic and research programs that attract not only Chinese nationals but also the best students and investigators worldwide irrespective of country of origin.
Peter Stang, a distinguished professor of chemistry and former dean of science at the University of Utah, also told Xinhua he was "very surprised and greatly honored" to receive this award. "I did not at all expect this very special recognition," he said.
Stang's collaborations with Chinese chemists originated from a visit to the Institute of Chemistry the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he discovered that they "had expertise that we did not have but would be very interesting to apply in our research," he recalled.
Noting that he likes Chinese culture, Chinese history, Chinese people and Chinese food, Stang said: "I have many excellent visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows from China. In fact, my current research group of 10 persons has seven researchers from China."
He called China's investment in science and technology a "wise" decision because it's very important for the future.
"I hope China will continue to strongly support science and technology," Stang said. "Future economic wellbeing and the health and wealth of people all over the world depend on new discoveries and developments in science and technology."
Seven foreign scientists received this year's International Cooperation Award in Science and Technology at a ceremony on Friday in Beijing. The awards were presented by state leaders including Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli.
Besides Lipkin and Stang, the other five recipients were Jan-Christer Janson from Sweden, Kazuki Okimura from Japan, Evgeny Velikhov from Russia, Carlo Rubbia from Italy and Joannes E. Frencken from the Netherlands.
Since 1995, China has given the International Cooperation Award in Science and Technology to 101 foreign scientists and two international organizations.