Ju Li

Nuclear Science and Engineering
A proven mentor and friend

Professor Ju Li is admired by his students not only for his outstanding scholarship, but also for his “fine character and deep commitment to the well-being of his students,” one nominator articulated.

As the Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, Li’s research focuses on mechanical properties of materials, and energy storage and conversion. His lab also studies the effects of radiation and aggressive environments on microstructure and materials properties.

Ongoing support for students

Li has an open door policy and students are always welcome in his office. Li “is always willing to spend hours of time with his students, offering help and support, no matter if it is academic or personal.” One nominator remarks, “He knows that everyone has a limited amount of time, and he never prioritizes his own personal agenda.”

Li shows empathy for students’ experiences (a Mentoring Guidepost identified by the C2C program). One student remarked that when they were not confident in their own abilities, Li was “extremely patient” and showed faith in their work. Li “lifted me up with his encouraging words and shared his own experiences and even struggles.”

According to nominators, over half of the members of Li’s group are international students, hailing from countries including Korea, China, Egypt, Finland, the United Kingdom, Iran, and Japan. When a new group member arrives, Li makes sure to introduce them to their new environs and checks in about “accommodation, commute, and even where to buy groceries.” His attention to international students and their smooth transition into graduate school is rooted in his own graduate experience, having arrived at MIT from China for his doctoral studies.

Li concerns himself with both training academic researchers and also preparing students for life after MIT, whether their paths lead them to academic, industry, governmental, or entrepreneurial endeavors. His attention to his students and their aims does not go unnoticed. One C2C nominator says that former group members often come back to visit and to seek advice from Li whenever possible, “and nobody regrets being a member of our group.”

It is clear from their letters of nomination that Li’s students deeply admire his character and hold him up as a life-long role model. In addition to his caring actions, they cite his humility and his treatment of students as “equals and true friends.”

Just as Li’s students admire him, Li was inspired by his own graduate mentor, Sydney Yip, Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Li says that Yip taught everyone who encountered him to become better researchers and better people. In graduate school, Li says, “I benefited so much by watching how Sid managed his group, and how he interacted with the world…I felt lucky every day.”