The history of School of Life Sciences (SLiS) at Nanjing University can be traced back to the establishment of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Nanking in 1914, and the foundation of the Biology Department at Nanjing Advanced Teachers College (later known as National Southeast University) by Dr. Bing Zhi in 1921. We are the first Biology department among all Chinese universities and one of the country's oldest institutions for life science research and education. In 1992, the Department of Biology and Department of Biochemistry were officially merged and became the new School of Life Sciences.
Throughout its century-long history, the school has maintained an unwavering commitment to a realistic scientific spirit, a rigorous academic style, and an enterprising scholarship tradition. Many of China’s outstanding scholars have studied and worked here, including over 60 academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Today, the school has five departments: Biology, Biochemistry, Ecology, Physiology and Artificial Intelligence Biology, and Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Sciences. It is home to three national talent-training bases: the National Base for Talent Cultivation in Scientific Research and Teaching, the National Base for Talent Cultivation in Life Science and Technology, and the National Exemplary Experimental Teaching Center in Life Sciences. In addition, it houses two national research platforms, including the State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and the National Resource Center for Mutant Mice. It also hosts several ministerial and provincial research centers, such as the Key Laboratory of Model Animals and Disease Research of the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Engineering Research Center of Protein and Peptide Medicine of MOE, the Jiangsu Engineering Research Center for MicroRNA Biology and Biotechnology, and the Nanjing University Institute of Biotechnology (approved by MOE).
The School has established a high-quality faculty team including 53 professors and 47 associate professors. Among our faculty members, we have 8 Changjiang Scholars, 11 recipients of the National Outstanding Youth Fund, 4 recipients of the National Young Talents Program, 7 recipients of the National Excellent Youth Fund, 19 awardees of the MOE’s New Century Talents Program, and one Distinguished Professor of the Jiangsu Province. Our research teams have also been designated one “Innovative Research Group of the National Natural Science Foundation of China” and two innovative teams under the MOE's “Development Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Teams”.
In terms of scientific disciplines, the School covers three primary disciplines — Biology, Ecology, and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Biology, which is a national first-tier key discipline, has been recently selected as a national Double First-Class initiative discipline; Ecology and Pharmaceutical Sciences are Jiangsu provincial key disciplines. In the fourth round of MOE’s discipline evaluation, Biology was rated A and Ecology rated A-. Internationally, the School ranks top 1% in 7.5 subjects (ESI discipline ranking), including Molecular biology & Genetics, Immunology, Agricultural Sciences, Neuroscience & Behavioral Science, Biology & Biochemistry, Pharmacology & Toxicology, Plant & Animal science, as well as Environmental & Ecological Sciences.
As regards talent cultivation,the School currently awards Ph.D. degrees in Biology, Ecology, and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and offers ten Master's programs in Botany, Zoology, Physiology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Ecology, Pharmacology, Pharmaceutics, Medicinal Chemistry, Microbiology & Biochemical Pharmacy, and Biology & Medicine. Moreover, there are three undergraduate majors: Biological Science, Biotechnology, and Ecology.
The School adheres to the fundamental task of fostering virtue through education, focusing on the “Double First-Class initiative and talent cultivation. Sticking to the principle of emphasizing disciplinary features and promoting innovative educational practices, the School carries out its responsibilities of providing ideological guidance with height and conviction, implements comprehensive daily educational work with depth and scope, conducts extensive and effective enrollment and vocational guidance work, and builds a student counsellor team that is both welcoming and substantive.
Taking high-quality undergraduate training as primary task, the School constantly carries out vigorous reforms to both inherit and improve its curriculum, and creates a comprehensive, systematic, and integrated life science education system that aligns with the characteristics of the biology discipline. This system relies on the national “Double World-Class” undergraduate major of Biological Science, the Pilot Program for Excelling Students in Basic Disciplines 2.0, the Program for Strengthening Basic Science Disciplines, the Tier1 Featured Majors of MOE and Featured Majors of Jiangsu Province, and three national talent training platforms, which are the National Base for Talent Cultivation in Scientific Research and Teaching, the National Base for Talent Cultivation in Life Science and Technology, and the National Exemplary Experimental Teaching Center in Life Sciences.
Our undergraduate curriculum adheres to Nanjing University's 3+3 and 5+4+3 talent training concepts, as well as the Melting Pot Project and Three-elements & Four-dimensions talent cultivation system. It is supported by various high-quality courses, which includes 5 national-level high-quality courses, 2 first-rate undergraduate courses, 2 high-quality online open courses, 1 high-quality resource-sharing course, and 2 bilingual demonstration courses. These high-quality courses have blossomed into multiple national and provincial-level educational reform awards, such as the national first prize for teaching in higher education, entitled Classics Reading Program.
The undergraduate curriculum has also integrated the Foundation-Integration-Exploration three-tier innovation and entrepreneurship training, which aims to foster experimental skills and translational potentials. This integration has improved the overall quality of students, instilling in them a passion for discovering new biological phenomena and laws, advancing new biotechnology, and addressing major national needs. All these efforts have led to outstanding students that are equipped with a strong theoretical foundation and a rich pioneering spirit, and possess internationally competitive skills, making them well-suited for contributing to the nation's rejuvenation. Around 80% of our undergraduate students pursue further studies, and in the past five years, nearly 50 students have been admitted to world-renowned universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge. More and more of our undergraduate alumni are emerging as exceptional young leaders in the field of life sciences.
In terms of postgraduate education, the school actively promotes the reform in 4-3-3 doctoral training paradigm and the 2-3-3 master's training paradigm. Quality control has been implemented in three stages: enrollment optimization, rigorous process control, and flexible graduation requirements. By improving the quality assurance and supervision system, the School has greatly improved the quality of its postgraduate education programs. Currently, we have 64 doctoral supervisors and 38 master's supervisors. In 2020, we enrolled 335 students in doctoral programs, 365 full-time master students in science, 164 master students in engineering, and 18 part-time masters in engineering. All these efforts have led to remarkable improvements in graduate education and research year by year.
As regards academic competitions, innovation, and entrepreneurship education, our students have performed exceptionally well. In the past five years, student teams from our school have achieved remarkable success, winning 5 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze award in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM), and have also been granted 3 Best Nomination Awards. Furthermore, they have secured 5 national gold awards and 2 bronze awards in China’s Internet Plus Contest, Creative Youth Competition and Challenge Cup Contest.
As regards students’ career development, we have achieved a 100% employment rate for our undergraduate students for three consecutive years, with approximately 30% of graduates continuing their studies at prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford. About 50% of our graduates have been recommended to postgraduate programs at renowned domestic universities like Tsinghua University, Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Fudan University, and Nanjing University. The employment rate of our graduate students has steadily increased each year, reaching 100% for doctoral students in 2020. Many of our graduate students were offered high-level positions in the government or big pharmaceutical companies and valued by their employers.
When scientific research is concerned, the School focuses on the fundamental questions in life science, fosters an interdisciplinary collaborative research environment, and integratesresearch fields from microscopic molecules to macroscopic ecology, and from biomedical science to environmental resources. The ultimate goal is to establish a high-level research platform in biology and medicine. Our problem-oriented research teams have achieved many groundbreaking findings including three original theoretical systems — “the natural selection laws of plant evolution and mutation”, “extracellular RNA”, and “biosynthesis”, and a series of innovative biotechnologies that have been successfully applied to medicine and ecological governance. Since 2016, the School has earned 1 second prize for the National Scientific and Technological Progress Award (shared with the School of Environmental Sciences); 3 first prizes for the Outstanding Scientific Research Achievements Award in Natural Science and 3 first prizes for Outstanding Scientific Research Achievements Awards in Technological Inventions, which were awarded by the MOE to Higher Education Institutions. Additionally, the School has attained 1 first prize for the Jiangsu Provincial Science and Technology Award, and 1 second prize for the Jiangsu Provincial Education and Teaching Achievement Award in the category of natural science research in higher education institutions.
In terms of international exchanges, the School continues to strengthen its international collaborations by closely working with numerous universities and research institutions abroad including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and many others. Additionally, we regularly invite distinguished scholars around the globe to give seminars at the School via the Zhengji Forum and Tadpole Salon platform, aiming to provide a collaboration platform for our scientists to interact with the international research communities. We sincerely welcome scientists and students from all over the world to visit and join the School of Life Sciences at Nanjing University.