• Alumni News – Dr. Tian Ren

Alumni News
A Journey of Innovation and Discovery


Ren has changed his research focus from studying polymer-porous solid interactions to studying CO2 conversion through polymer-modified catalysis. This shows that he is flexible and wants to make scientific progress. In his current postdoctoral position, he is passionately immersing himself in the catalysis world, aiming to broaden his expertise and collaborate with the exceptional individuals in the Cargnello Group. His short-term objectives are centered around learning and absorbing insights from his newfound catalysis background. Concurrently, he is cherishing the opportunity to engage with the vibrant community of scholars and researchers in his new laboratory.

Looking toward the future, Ren harbors a long-term ambition to contribute to academia as a professor. His love for proactive research and dedication to mentoring students in their scientific explorations underscore his desire to make a lasting impact on the academic community.

Reflecting on his time at the University of Pennsylvania, he fondly recalls the joy and fulfillment that characterized his campus life. He speaks highly of the warm and friendly atmosphere, emphasizing the inclusive and diverse environment that enriched his experience. Notably, he appreciates the cost-effectiveness of living in Philadelphia, making it an attractive and welcoming city for students.

Ren participated in the Smart Lab (the Lee Lab) and the Gorte Lab during his time at the University of Pennsylvania. Undoubtedly, these memories contribute to the tapestry of his academic journey, showcasing the collaborative and impactful nature of his research endeavors.

His interactions with mentors and colleagues, particularly Drs. Daeyeon Lee and Raymond J. Gorte greatly enhanced his experience in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) department.

He found inspiration and moments of reflection during his daily routine, which included an energizing 5-kilometer run along Philadelphia’s busy streets. As he traversed Chestnut Street from 43rd to 30th Street, then along the riverbank, and back home via Walnut Street, he often encountered familiar faces from the campus community. One such encounter was with Dr. Gorte, distinguished by his signature peaked hat, as he indulged in his morning ritual of savoring black coffee at Dunkin Donuts. He frequently crossed paths with Dr. Lee near the Fresh Grocer, now ACME. Both mentors, renowned for their commitment to excellence and tireless work ethic, embodied the ethos of early birds, often burning the midnight oil in pursuit of academic rigor. He found inspiration in the juxtaposition of their disciplined approach to work and their warmth towards students, reminiscent of the ancient Chinese proverb, “待人春风,持己秋霜,” which extols the virtues of treating others with kindness akin to a gentle spring breeze while maintaining personal discipline akin to the biting autumn frost. Ren made an effort to model their commitment and compassion in his interactions with peers and mentees to promote a climate of respect and cooperation within the academic community. Ren found inspiration from their exemplary behavior.

His bond with Dr. Lee transcended the confines of the laboratory, extending into the realm of shared experiences and mutual support. Their joint participation in the 2023 Broad Street Run, a challenging 10-mile race rich in historical significance, served as the epitome of their camaraderie. Together, they conquered the arduous course, each step a testament to their resilience and tenacity. Ren found not only an academic mentor in Dr. Lee but also a life model, a beacon of fortitude and positivity in the face of adversity. Their shared journey through the Broad Street Run served as a poignant reminder of the power of camaraderie and the boundless potential within the human spirit.

Dr. Ren values academia as a seed of human development, drawing from personal experiences at UPenn and interactions with industry experts and alumni through roles in organizations like the Catalysis Club of Philadelphia and the Tsinghua University Alumni Association of Greater Philadelphia. Despite exposure to various perspectives, Ren remains committed to academia due to a passion for research and the joy of scientific exploration. Ren finds fulfillment in guiding students through scientific discovery and nurturing knowledge, using the analogy of research as planting seeds that grow into trees of new developments. He believes that through collective efforts, society can realize its vision of creating a peaceful and prosperous world.

Ren’s journey at the University of Pennsylvania is a testament to his academic prowess, adaptability, and passion for research. His transition into a postdoctoral role at Stanford University and his future aspirations as a professor underscore his commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and mentoring the next generation of scholars.