Insight | Back to where the journey started, yet start a new one


Editor's note

On October 27th 2021, Prof. Der-Horng Lee joined the International Campus, Zhejiang University, and was formally inaugurated as the Dean of ZJU-UIUC Institute.

On the same day, being invited as the honorable guest for the 7th High Table Dinner, Prof. Lee delivered his first public speech on the campus. 

In the nearly one-hour speech, the audience was attracted by Prof. Lee’s humorous yet powerful words and was deeply moved by his passion and love towards the country. For the 2022 cohort, we hope this wonderful speech will inspire you while starting your new journey. 


Professor Lee was graduated with his PhD degree from the University of Illinois  Chicago (UIC) in 1996. Prior to ZJU, Professor Lee was a tenured professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore (NUS). He is an elected Fellow of Academy of Engineering Singapore (SAEng) which signifies the recognition of Professor Lee’s stellar leadership and career achievements in the field of engineering. At the year of his SAEng Fellowship conferment in 2017, Professor Lee was then the youngest as well as the first elected SAEng Fellow in Transportation. He was an Honoree of 2002 TR100 Award (renamed to TR35 in 2005) by MIT’s Technology Review. In 2015, Professor Lee was elected as a Fellow of Institution of Engineers Singapore and the inaugural batch of Chartered Engineer of transportation engineering and the assessor in Singapore. Professor Lee is ranked as top 1% in the area of Logistics and Transportation in “World’s Top 2% Scientists 2020” published by Stanford University. Professor Lee’s professional expertise includes Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Transportation Planning, Transportation Policy, Metro Systems Modeling, Container Port Operations, Traffic Simulation, Public Transportation Systems, AI and Data Analytics in Urban Mobility Research, etc.



Aside from our study and research, to begin with my sharing tonight, I think it is important for us to check with ourselves, what are the important qualities we should possess.  

The first quality that came into my mind is “Integrity.” I am sure we all know the definition of integrity. Simply put, it is nothing but do the right things. Secondly, another fold of even more important implication in “integrity” is that we must also stand up for what is right.  Especially for people who have received or are receiving higher education like you all in this room. I am not saying that are the elites, even though people may consider us as elites in the society, more importantly, do we possess the elite quality as the conscious of the society?

The second quality is “Respect,” what I mean by “respect” is to show the considerations to your peers, to your friends, to your classmates, to your roommates, to your professors, even to the service personnel around us. That could be considered as “Respect.”  Furthermore, it is not only to show the considerations, but also fulfil the deeds. The word “deed” basically means “contract” that defines contractual obligations.  But “deed” has another meaning.  It could also mean “the good behavior.” In this occasion, what I mean by “Respect” include showing the considerations and the good behaviors to yourself and others. There is nothing wrong to exhibit good considerations to yourself first. If you are not able to look after yourself, it's not possible for you to extend you the same kind of considerations and good behaviors to other people.

Thirdly, is the “Responsibility.”  We all know that we are supposed to be responsible for many different things. My own definition to the word of “Responsibility” is “to give off our best in all that we do.” Do the best, deliver the best, it is our responsibility; especially for people who have been better educated, who have seen more things, who have been willing to take up greater loadings.

And the next is “Teamwork”.  My own definition and belief of “teamwork” is “work well with others.”  In our study, we all have many different class project experiences. We should never be the sleeping members in a team. Work well and devote yourself into the work that you are doing, and this is simplest definition and what I meant by “Teamwork.”

The next is “Loyalty.”  This seems a very big topic. Loyalty demands us from making commitments. We must make the commitments to our family, to our school, to our community and to our nation. Never forget your nation. Chinese has a proverb, “No nation, no family.”  The nation comes before the family and to sustain the family. The “loyalty” is supposed to be expanded to a greater which is at the national level.


And the next is “Resilience.” It also means the perseverance in the face of the challenges. Maybe it's true that in your role as a student, you have always been top of the class.  Being top is one thing but once you are in front of the challenge, it doesn't mean you are able to deal with or adapt to it.  Resilience shows your capability and perseverance during the challenging time.

The last one is “Inspiration.” Not to forget the inspiration, inspiring yourself and inspiring others. Don't be shy of giving out the inspirations to cheer up yourself and others so the momentum is always up and on. 



I would also like to share some personal reflections based on the revelations I collected through my study and research journey. Many of you know that I'm a transportation engineer by training. My specialty lies in the intelligent transportation systems and intelligent logistics systems. So far, lots of works I've been working on are about technology.  There are some familiar trendy terms in the following that you all have heard about.  Allow me  to use them in my following parables.   

The first one is “Artificial Intelligence.” In English, other than “man-made” or “not natural”,  the word “artificial” has another meaning. It simply means fake, not real. An important mission of ours is to create the knowledge.  Only when new knowledge is created, we would see the progress of civilization. 

Secondly is “Big Data.” What am I trying to express by borrowing the term “big data?” We have been often hearing “data empowerment” which is a very popular phrase nowadays. My own realization is that “the moment you control the data, you control the power.” The original phrase is that “the moment you control the information, you control the power.In my research works, I study people's behavior. Endeavoring to understand your behavior of shopping is one of the good ways to understand what kind of person you are. So, I use lots of big data, and data empowers. Data would enable you the necessary power to understand the world, to explore the new areas and unknowns. This means empowerment. But how to acquire the data? Get your antenna up and right in order to receive the signals. Sometimes we say something like “this guy is hard to be communicated.” Why? Because for whatever things I say, he didn't get the point. His antenna is not working properly. He's still using the 2G and I'm using the 6G. So how to communicate? The frequency is not the same. What I am trying to say here is: in order for you to get the data, enrich your own data bank or data warehouse, you must get your antenna up and right so that we could continuously renew and update ourselves. This is especially important to the students and the young faculty members.

And the next is “Cloud Computing.” The attractiveness about the cloud computing, first of all, is scalability. Secondly, it’s the adaptability. Scalability means if you want to make it big, it can be big; if you want to make it small, it can be small. That is scalability. Secondly, it is the adaptability, which suggests us to be adaptable to suit into the changing world. 

The next is “Deep Learning.” Deep learning in my own words, is to see others who failed to see. This is my own realization of “deep learning.” I encourage you to cultivate the capability to see things that other failed to see. Note that I am not using “fail to see” but indeed in past tense “failed to see” which indicates things that other people have been trying to see but they didn’t manage to see. So, they failed. If they failed but you succeed, then you are ahead of them. Again, I am just of the opinion that this understanding of “Deep Learning” is crucial in our study and research.

I have mentioned A-B-C-D just now and there's an E, the “Ecology.” Ecology is to “walk with others and work with others.” Create your ecology and never underestimate people who are next to you. Walk and work with others to build the ecology of your future success.


Next is “Calculus.” I always make fun of saying that calculus is something very easy because it only has two parts; that is: differential and integral. In Chinese, we call it "Weijifen (微积分)".  What does “differential 微分” mean? It means you have to look into the subtle differences and fine variations. That's “differential.” It is to figure out the true difference, to figure out the correlation. While, “integral” means the capability to summarize and to trace back to the root cause. 

Now we come to “Linear Algebra.”  I am not here to teach you that linear algebra is fundamental in modern presentations of geometry, including for defining basic objects such as lines, planes and rotations.  My intention is to use the term of “Linear Algebra” as a parable to remind you that we ought to function like a cell in a matrix but we must avoid being “singular” or “zero cell” in the (matrix) operations to cause complications. 

The next is “Optimization.”  We are in a real world. I hope we all know our defined objective(s). Given the objective(s), we then decide whether to maximize (the gains) or minimize (the losses) the objective(s) in acknowledging the constraints given onto us. This is optimization. When we pursue the optimization, we only deal with positivity because there is no negativity in optimization theory. I am just trying to borrow the realization of “optimization” to remind and to encourage you to stay objective and positive given whether it is your study, research, or your personal life.



President Xi Jinping ever enlightened us on the essence of development, talent, and innovation. I personally have been fascinated by many of President Xi’s sharing very much. These phrases showing on this page of my slide strike me very strongly. “Development is the foremost mission发展是第一要务. Talent is the foremost resources人才是第一资源. Innovation is the foremost driven force创新是第一动力.” Surprisingly, President Xi’s remarkable enlightenments exemplify the motto of Zhejiang University – “Seeking Truth, Pursuing Innovation 求是创新”.  My personal realization of “发展是第一要务” equates as “求是.” Following Zhejiang University’s motto, the English translation of “创新” is known as “Pursuing Innovation” which is in line with “Innovation is the foremost driven force创新是第一动力.”  To properly understand the implications of “Talent is the foremost resource人才是第一资源,” we know that if there's no talent, there's no way to have the supposed developments, not to mention the innovations. It is to say that talent is in the central role of “Seeking Truth, Pursuing Innovation.” We all are part of this great mission. We are not just to recruit the talents to the join us.  Essentially, we must nurture the talents including all of you, our students. Stand up, step forward, and never forget that you are in the center of this “Seeking Truth求是” and “Pursuing Innovation创新.”

With this, I conclude my sharing tonight, thank you very much.


(Design | HUANG Xianzhe; Editor | LIU Shuaiyin, SUN Xiaolei; Editor in Charge | LI Yinan)