2021 Fulcher Sabbatical

Fulcher Sabbatical Scholar Energized, Inspired by Corning Experience

Fulcher Sabbatical Scholar Energized, Inspired by Corning Experience

Dr. Jincheng Du forged relationships, collaborations during time spent with Sullivan Park researchers

As a boy growing up in Central China, Jincheng Du was fascinated by how the universe worked.

His father, a medical doctor, gave him books on the lives of scientists. Young Jincheng started to learn about the science behind X-rays and other breakthrough innovations. He began to crave new understanding about chemistry and materials -- a passion that would launch him into an illustrious career as a glass scholar, fundamental researcher, and professor at distinguished universities around the world.

This year, Jincheng – a materials science professor at the University of North Texas – has collaborated with Corning scientists as the 2021 Fulcher Sabbatical scholar. The Fulcher program, named for 1920s-era Corning scientist Dr. Gordon Fulcher and launched in 2015, brings academic researchers to Sullivan Park to learn, collaborate, and share fresh perspectives.

“They have an opportunity to work closely with our scientists and engineers in areas of common interest,” said Dr. Ozgur Gulbiten, who supervises the sabbatical program. “They often propose new ideas and present points of view we might not have considered. It’s a very valuable way to collaborate and expand our thinking on fundamental research.

“Jincheng has definitely continued that tradition.”

Over the past several months, Jincheng has earned praise from Corning colleagues for his passion for glass and his knowledge of research topics – from glass structures to surface properties – that are important to Corning.

“He’s already very established in the glass field and has an extended publication record in top-notch, high-impact journals,” said Ozgur. “He has deep expertise on the field of computational material science, but with us he has been combining experimental work with computation. We have world-class modeling groups and he brings new perspectives, new ideas to enhance their work even more.”

Jincheng earned his undergraduate degrees in China, then came to Alfred University to pursue his Ph.D. While at Alfred, he developed a keen interest in Corning and glass science – so much so that when he would gaze at the stars on a clear summer night, his mind would draw outlines of constellations and remind him of complex atomic structures in glass.

“The stars look random, right? But if you look closely, you see patterns, you see features. It’s the same with a glass structure. There’s a richness we don’t see until we study it closely. That’s when we see the infinite possibilities glass offers us.”

Jincheng said he’s been “thrilled” by his Fulcher sabbatical experience, which began in June after a year’s delay due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I feel very lucky to have been selected for the program. I knew many of my Corning colleagues from various professional societies. But it’s been so great to meet them in person and have face-to-face discussions about research and how to apply it in different directions, especially after over a year of no travel for scientific conferences due to the pandemic.”

He sees many connections between his learnings and his work as an educator, too.

For example, he watched Dr. Sue Schiefelbein -- Corning’s go-to expert on thermodynamics -- give a Glass Summit presentation on understanding devitrification, a process in which glass can form crystalline structures.

“I was fascinated by the subject,” he said. “After seeing her present and then meeting her as I got to know people in the Glass Research group, I can now tell students in my thermodynamics class how this is applied in materials discovery and how she pushed boundaries and applied it to her own research.”

“I had many experiences like this, and it’s tremendous.”

As he returns to the classroom this fall, he said, he expects his Corning experience to help support his students in multiple ways.

“In working at Corning, in addition to scientific collaborations and discussions, I wanted to understand more about what our students need to survive and thrive in an industrial environment,” he said.

“One thing I can really emphasize to them is to have confidence, and to trust scientific principles. When you are young and getting started, you may doubt your findings. New theories always face many questions before being accepted in the scientific community. So great scientists need to build a sense of confidence early in their careers.

“Great companies like Corning are always going forward and building on new ideas. So, given time and a good environment like Corning,  students can become successful in the future if they have a sound fundamental understanding of the field, are creative, and have confidence in themselves.”

Most of all, he said, he hopes to instill in his students the fascination with glass that he shares with his Corning collaborators.

“It’s an ancient material, but yet it’s very new,” he said. “We are discovering new dimensions to its potential almost every day.”

About the Fulcher Sabbatical Program

Named after the famed Corning glass scientist, the annual Gordon S. Fulcher Sabbatical program merges academic and industrial research to enable a brighter future for the glass industry.

Interested in Applying? Click Here for more information!

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