SIGS Graduate Story | Xu Tong: Research is a journey of self-discovery

Xu Tong’20 enrolled as a PhD student at the Smart Grid and Renewable Energy Lab of Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI) in 2015. In the past five years, he has achieved impressive academic results, publishing four papers in SCI journals, receiving three patents, as well as scholarships from Tsinghua University, TBSI and others. After graduation, he will be working at the Southwest Electric Power Design Institute of China Power Engineering Consulting Group.


Becoming one of TBSI's first PhD students

"Opportunities are out there for those who are ready." Xu Tong said. Although Xu failed to get a satisfactory result from the National College Entrance Examination, he made up his mind to map out his future in the summer break that followed. As an undergraduate, he was awarded the title of Chongqing's Excellent Graduate. 

When TBSI was recruiting its first batch of PhD students, Xu Tong, who originally had no plans to pursue a higher degree, was intrigued by TBSI's international, innovation, interdisciplinary educational philosophy, and thus started his journey at TBSI.

Overcoming Challenges along the way

Throughout the years, Xu has realized that research is a process of making breakthroughs, innovations, and rediscovering oneself. This process requires courage to venture into uncharted territories.

In his second year, Xu published his first SCI paper. This success instilled him with a sense of accomplishment, and intensified his interest in research.

However, there were still setbacks ahead. Early in 2018, he submitted his final paper for publication, but it was resubmitted to three journals and revised five times. In 2020, the paper was finally accepted by a leading journal IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics.  


Xu Tong’s paper was accepted by IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics

 "During the past five years, my supervisor has not only taught me specialized knowledge, but has also taught me important life lessons.” Xu’s supervisor once said, a mentor-mentee relationship may evolve into one between academic partners. Looking back, Xu is very grateful for his advisor’s guidance along the way.

TBSI provides many overseas academic exchange opportunities for its students. During his studies, Xu Tong participated in the Tsinghua-Imperial Summer Vacation Program and spent one year studying at UC Berkeley. Such experiences opened his eyes to different research systems and cultures abroad. He observed that foreign scholars are more willing to express their intentions and present themselves, and he deliberately trained himself to be more expressive when talking about academic topics.


Xu Tong participated in the Tsinghua-Imperial Summer Vacation Program


Xu Tong studied at UC Berkeley for one year

A fulfilling student life beyond research

Apart from research, Xu was also very active in extracurricular activities. Even before his classes started at TBSI, Xu Tong took part in the LINK program (short for Leadership, Innovation, Nation and Knowledge) organized by the school. The program not only honed his skillset, but also allowed him to develop friendships with faculty and students. Shortly after that, he joined the Student Union in his first semester, and served multiple terms as its Vice President.


Xu Tong took part in the LINK Program

"You can always make time if you are passionate about what you do. Working in student groups sharpens my mind and abilities," Xu said.

Advice for future graduates

"Failure is part of research." Xu Tong suggested that future graduates persevere in the face of failure and find joy in research. When choosing a future career, he proposed three criteria: individual capabilities, personal interests, and trends of the era. "There is no standard answer to this question. The job that suits you is the best."


Photos provided by interviewee

Edited by Fei, Karen