Interview with Song Gao

Song Gao talks to CrystEngCommunity about the future for magnetism and his passion for the history of science

11 January 2010

Song Gao is the CrystEngComm Regional Associate Editor for China and the Cheung Kong Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, Molecular Magnetism at Peking University. He is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. His research interests focus on magnetic coordination polymers, single molecule magnets, multi-functional molecular materials and porous, organic-inorganic hybrid molecular solids.

Why did you to become a scientist?

I was interested in both physics and chemistry in high school. The interesting thing was that for the college entrance examinations, my score in chemistry was one point higher than that in physics, so I applied to the chemistry department. In fact, what attracts me most is not the chemistry itself, but the overlapping field of chemistry and physics.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I am working in the field of molecular magnetism; it is an interdisciplinary subject, concerning synthetic chemistry and solid state physics of molecular solids. My research projects are currently focused on magnetic ordered coordination polymers, molecular nanomagnets, molecular and crystal engineering, and multifunctional molecular materials.

What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?

It is difficult to predict the future. In the last two decades, the field of molecular magnetism has seen tremendous development, for example magnetic ordering in organic or organic-metal molecular solids, single-molecule/single-chain magnets and multifunctional molecular materials. The next big breakthrough might be understanding and manipulating single molecule magnetic and transportation behaviors for molecular spintronics.

How do you think crystal engineering will develop in the next five years?

From view point of molecular magnetism, rational design and control of crystalline molecular solids with expected magnetic properties is still a challenge, although we already know a lot about the relationship between structure and magnetism. Some new fields are emerging, such as dynamic structure and functional properties of molecular crystals and molecular crystal engineering on surfaces, interfaces or in confined spaces.

What would you do if you weren’t a scientist?

Probably, a teacher or an editor, my parents were all teachers.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

I’m happy that I’ve been doing what I love to do all these years. Also as a professor at a university, I am fortunate to work with many bright young people. Anyway, doing research itself is a pleasant journey.

What is the secret to a successful research group?

I think that the most important thing is to stimulate the interest and passion of each group member and create an environment of freedom and tolerance, but this is not so easy to achieve.

What achievement are you most proud of?

So far, my co-workers and I have made some achievements in our research area, such as creating some homospin single-chain magnets, discovering field-dependent magnetic relaxation in some magnetic isolated systems and constructing some new molecular magnets based on spin canting strategy. However, I think I have not experienced the so-called ‘extreme excitement’ with these achievements. I’m not a perfectionist, but I have set high goals for myself, especially in terms of originality.

What advice would you give to a young scientist?

Thinking and doing, doing and thinking.

Can you tell us a little known fact about yourself?

I love to read, especially books on the history of science. When I was still a college student, I used to be a member of the Science & Philosophy Club. I’m interested in the history of the early 20th century, which is an exciting period of time for science development. Reading about history of that era sustains my passion for science.

Related Links

Song Gao’s homepage at Peking University in China

M2(N3)4(hmt)(H2O) (M = Co2+ and Ni2+, hmt = hexamethylenetetramine): mixed azide-hmt bridged 3D metal frameworks with long-range magnetic ordering
Ru-Yin Li, Zhe-Ming Wang and Song Gao, CrystEngComm, 2009, 11, 2096

Transition metal coordination frameworks with bridges of 1,2-bis(4-pyridyl)ethane-N,N-dioxide incorporating anions of different size
Hao-Ling Sun, Zhe-Ming Wang, Song Gao and Stuart R. Batten, CrystEngComm, 2008, 10, 1796

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