Nankai University (NKU)


Nankai University:A leading light from China

Since its founding in 1919, Nankai University has forged a strong academic reputation. Known as the ‘North Star’ among China’s higher education institutions, it has gathered many academic leaders over the years, and inspired generations of students, building a model for higher education in China. Aimed at making an impact on society, the university has produced many results that have brought significant socioeconomic benefits.

“We emphasize public values, capabilities, and innovation,” says Cao Xuetao, the university’s president. “These are integral to our Nankai spirit.” Now, under the ‘make Nankai excellent’ plan, these core ideals are guiding Nankai University toward further greatness.

Continually innovating

The dramatized story of a Nankai University pioneer has enthralled theatre audiences across China, and symbolizes the institution’s value to the country. The play is based on the story of its former president, Yang Shixian, a chemistry pioneer who spearheaded the development of China’s first-generation organic pesticides, and founded the Institute of Elemento-Organic Chemistry at Nankai. His influential work has drawn many talented young researchers, who in turn, cultivated many bright students, putting Nankai on the map as China’s ‘cradle of chemists’, a reputation it still enjoys.

Yang’s story typifies Nankai’s historic commitment to research that aims to address socioeconomic development needs. Later generations of Nankai researchers have taken up the mantle of useful research. The team led by chemist, Li Zhengming, has developed affordable green, effective pesticides that increase farming profits. Research results by Nankai researchers have also been used in technology to detect hazardous gases on spacecraft, such as Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2, contributing to China’s manned space programme.

Other recent breakthroughs include the use of robotic technology in cell micro-manipulation, leading to the birth of the world’s first robot-cloned piglets; the development of organic solar cells that set a new record in sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency; the discovery of novel molecular mechanisms underlying inflammatory immune responses, contributing to progresses in immunotherapy; efficient synthesis of a natural product that can be used to treat glioma, a category of brain tumour; and the development of automated bridge crane systems that have significantly improved work efficiency and safety.

These research results have put Nankai among the top 10 in China in the Nature Index annual tables released in 2019, and 47th among global academic institutions. Its chemistry is ranked 10th globally among academic institutions in the Nature Index. In 2018, Nankai had eight scholars selected as Clarivate ‘highly-cited researchers’ of the year. It is also a leading Chinese university in the number of citations in the recent 10 years of its cumulative papers published in Science Citation Indexed journals.

With 26 colleges and 92 undergraduate programmes, Nankai has one of the most comprehensive academic programmes in the country. While the university was selected into the national ‘double first-class’ initiative, its chemistry, material science and engineering, mathematics, statics and world history programmes were also designated as ‘double first-class’ subject areas. As a national research and teaching centre, Nankai also has 21 national-level key research institutions in natural sciences and seven in social sciences.

An active player at the forefront of scientific research, Nankai is making changes to improve its research capacities. As part of the ‘make Nankai excellent’ plan, the university is to capitalize on its existing strengths in natural sciences, humanities and social sciences, enhance its edge in engineering and biomedicine, and boost the development of emerging interdisciplinary fields, seeking to address national strategic needs.

Nankai University Custom Publishing on Nature:

Nankai University retains sole responsibility for content © 2019 Nankai University.

1 October 2018 - 30 September 2019

Region: Global
Subject/journal group: All

The table to the right includes counts of all research outputs for Nankai University (NKU) published between 1 October 2018 - 30 September 2019 which are tracked by the Nature Index.

Hover over the donut graph to view the FC output for each subject. Below, the same research outputs are grouped by subject. Click on the subject to drill-down into a list of articles organized by journal, and then by title.

Note: Articles may be assigned to more than one subject area.

Count Share
582 223.37

Outputs by subject (Share)

Subject Count Share
Chemistry 394 164.40
Physical Sciences 164 45.06
Life Sciences 56 12.40
Earth & Environmental Sciences 33 18.31

Highlight of the month

DNA sensor helps fight viruses in the nucleus



The nucleus — the inner sanctum of the cell — is not free of immune defenses, as long believed.

Unlike RNA viruses, DNA viruses direct their genomic DNA into the nuclei of host cells, but little is known about the surveillance mechanisms for detecting viral nucleic acids in the nucleus.

A Nankai University–led study has found that mammalian nuclei contain a protein that detects viral DNA and ships it off to the cell’s main compartment, the cytoplasm, for immune processing.

Importantly, this newly described DNA sensor helps initiate and amplify strong innate immune responses against viral pathogens residing in the nucleus without reacting against host DNA, which is packaged in tight coils and recognized as non-foreign.

The findings thus unveil a new facet of DNA recognition in the nucleus and provide a potential therapeutic target for treating viral infections.

Supported content

  1. Science 65, eaav0758 (2019). doi: 10.1126/science.aav0758

View the article on the Nature Index

See more research highlights from Nankai University (NKU)

More research highlights from Nankai University (NKU)

1 October 2018 - 30 September 2019

International vs. domestic collaboration by Share

  • 72.02% Domestic
  • 27.98% International

Note: Hover over the graph to view the percentage of collaboration.

Note: Collaboration is determined by the fractional count (Share), which is listed in parentheses.

Affiliated joint institutions and consortia

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