Yang Jie

  • Born inGhana
  • Studied inUnited States
  • Lives inChina


From Women Mathematicians around the World, a Gallery of Portraits

School of Mathematical Sciences, Capital normal University,

100048 Beijing, PR China

e-mail: yangjie at mail.cnu.edu.cn


2000: BS in physics. University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

2003: MS in physics. University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

2008: PhD in physics. California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Professional experience

since 2011: Assistant professor. School of Mathematical Sciences, Capital normal University

2008–2010: Postdoctoral fellowship. Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati/International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA)


How and when did you come to choose to do physics ?

I have been fascinated by the beauty of physics since I was at junior high school. In particular, I was inspired by a book called “Mr. Thompkins in wonderland” by Georgy Gamov.

Were you then encouraged by your family, friends or by other people around you?

I was encouraged by my father who liked to buy me books in this field and who wanted me to become a scientist. Many of my teachers also encouraged me.

Did you come across obstacles in pursuing your career as a mathematician?


If so, could you point out to some of them?

As I was finishing my postdoc job, I started looking for a new job in China. I came across many obstacles, some because I didn’t have connections in China, some because my research area is barely studied in China.

Do you think some of the possible difficulties are related to the socio-economic situation in your country? the fact that you are a woman?

As a woman especially a Chinese woman, I wasn’t so confident in pursuing physics for my career and I wasn’t very open to discussions and reluctant to asking questions. When I went to the US for my graduate study, I tried to adjust myself to the US culture and I pushed myself into talking to people and opening my mind. The second reason and maybe the most important one, is that I became a Christian, so I have gained a lot of confidence from God.

Oother reasons? Please describe the type of difficulty you encountered (and maybe still encounter) and comment on how you overcame these difficulties, if any.

The environment in China isn’t so satisfying. Firstly we have a different culture, it’s only during the past 50 years we started developing science and technology. Secondly we are too eager to aim for applications rather than building up a solid background for science and technology.

In retrospect, are you happy to have chosen physics or do you have some regrets? What are for you the joys of physics? What are for you the hardships of physics?

I am happy to have chosen physics and my regret is that I didn’t start with an open mind early enough. The joys are to use physics to explain nature and to explore the mysteries of our universe. On the way to finding the truth we discover many laws of mathematics.

What would you recommend a young woman in your country wanting to start a career in physics ?

Try to be open minded and not be shy in order to discuss and discuss one’s work with other people. Support and encourage each other, after all we women physicists, are a minority.

Could you write a few lines in an understandable manner to non-experts, describing your topics of research and your favorite personal achievement in mathematics?

My research is called string theory more precisely topological string theory. String theory is an attempt to unify all the four forces that we know in our universe. Topological strings is a branch of research in string theory. It focuses on some topological features of the whole theory which makes it easier and mathematically feasible.

My favourite personal achievement is that I have become an expert in topological string theory and recently I have started a new project which I think is very promising.