The Alumni Interviews of BJUT: Interview with Professor Ren Futian - Expert in Transportation Engineering

By Alumni Association of Beijing University of Technology, conducted on May 24, 2018

Lifelong pursuit - the Forerunner of Transportation Engineering in China


Ren Futian is the transportation engineering expert, professor and doctoral supervisor of Beijing University of Technology, Executive Director of China Transportation Engineering Association and expert with outstanding contributions in Beijing. He has been engaged in the teaching and scientific research of road transportation engineering for a long period. His research orientation includes transportation flow theory and transportation design and road capacity. In 1979, he took the lead in setting up the specialty of Transportation Engineering in China and proposed the direction of “Combining Engineering and Management”. In 1996, he established the first batch of doctoral degree accreditation center for Transportation Engineering in China. He established the discipline system of Transportation Engineering, put forward the new theory of road route design, and harbored novel insights in the planning and location of the transportation hub and comprehensive evaluation of transportation. He has presided over the international academic conference, published 14 original articles and translated professional books, released 60 papers, among whichIntroduction to Transportation Engineeringwas the foundation for discipline system of Transportation Engineering. He also won many honors from ministries and provinces, and the second prize of the National Prize for Progress in Science and Technology progress twice.


Mr. Ren Futian is the founder of the transportation engineering discipline in China. He has been committed to the construction of transportation engineering discipline in Beijing University of Technology for a long time and has established its own brand in domestic transportation engineering. After retirement, He still cares about the development of BJUT and the discipline of transportation. In 2014, he donated 1 million yuan to set up the “Ren Futian” Transportation Scholarship of Beijing University of Technology, for the special purpose of rewarding the students of excellent character and learning and fully supporting the talent training, student innovation and educational development of the college.


Pioneer of Transportation Engineering in China

As the founder of transportation engineering in China, Mr. Ren witnessed the history of transportation engineering specialty. Thanks to his foresight, Mr. Ren created the discipline of transportation engineering in China. Mr. Ren graduated from Nanjing Institute of Technology (now Southeast University) majoring in Road Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering in his early years and held a teaching post at Beijing University of Technology in 1966. When it came to the initial establishment of this specialty, Mr. Ren said frankly that it was inspired by the University’s Five-year Reform Plan of the Education System, which focused on innovation and development and desired new specialties. In April 1979, Mr. Ren proposed to establish the Transportation Engineering specialty. However, given the academic environment then, many people cast various doubts, but Mr. Ren was confident and made every effort to popularize the specialty of Transportation Engineering.

With the endless efforts of Mr. Ren and many colleagues, the major of Transportation Engineering emerged in 1979 and began to recruit students in 1980. His bookIntroduction to Transportation Engineeringpublished in 1987 also established his status as a professional pioneer. In those days, the Transportation Engineering Teaching and Research Office of the university investigated the types of talents across relevant units in Beijing and formulated a teaching plan on such a basis. For it was adopted to the social needs for talents, it hence prepared the students in this specialty with promising career prospects and solved the basic problems for the sustainable development of the specialty.

ISpecialty Management:

Offer a Ground for the Specialty with Efforts

Specialty Management and Teaching with His Concept in Mind

Mr. Ren has his own original insights in education and introduces the concept of “Combining Engineering and Management”, which has been implemented in the teaching plan.

Mr. Ren said: “The road is the most important transportation facility. People drive on the road to make transportation possible. Road broadening and intersection reconstruction belongs to road engineering; safety barriers and large-scale signs are structural engineerings. Therefore, students majoring in Transportation Engineering should not only master knowledge in planning and management but also in engineering. A technician, who knows both transportation and engineering, can be handy in transportation work.” In addition, from the perspective of student training, Mr. Ren insisted that “to benefit students is to help them apply what they have learned, so that they become ready for work after graduation". Mr. Ren particularly highlighted that the core professional skills of engineering students should be truly trained and mastered at university. Based on the actual situation at that time, Mr. Ren boldly leveraged the effective mechanism of Production, Learning and Research and application to establish a start-up company with the background of creating an internship base for students. It provides opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students majoring in Transportation Engineering to take on their internship and practice.

IITeaching:Teach with Virtues and Deeds

Work with Devotion and Research with Academic Rigour

In terms of the relationship between Mr. Ren and his students, he should be said to be a good teacher and helpful friend. He inspires students with academic rigor and also cares about them like an elder family member. In the process of education, despite the strict requirement for students, he pays special attention to the teaching way and method. He suits the teaching to the ability of the students and guides them under specific circumstances. He treats every student equally, does not give up every student, and enables every student to benefit and grow with the benefit of his words and deeds. Quite often Mr. Ren claimed: “Wining over the student in knowledge does not create teachers of capacity; preparing them with knowledge does.”

What Mr. Ren most impressed the students was his dedication and love for his career, as well as his rigorous teaching style. He teachs his students to take their work seriously and pursue perfection in their specialties. He also encourages students to be down-to-earth, diligent, rather than overambitious.

IIIScientific research:Where the Truth Exits is Where Teachers Stand

Whether Go Deeper and Further Based on Scientific Research

In his opinion on the profession of teachers, Mr. Ren believes that in addition to the requirements in politics, teachers should fulfill at least two obligations. The first duty is to stand on the stage and teach classes well. To teach a lesson well is to prepare a lesson, give a lecture, direct student internship, conduct experiments, and answer students’ questions in a serious manner to attract students’ passion towards class and therefore have prestige among teachers and students. Teachers should care about students in physical and psychological health, ideological cultivation, academic progress, and spirit of innovation. Teachers should be thoroughly responsible for the courses to be taught so that students can get inspired. It is never allowed to lead young people astray and go against the title of teacher. The second thing is to find a position among peers, specifically to do scientific research, enrich disciplines and publish papers. Mr. Ren expressed that in scientific research, the primary thing is to correct the concept of fame and wealth, that is, “be able to endure loneliness”, “be focused and go forward on the way without distraction”. Scientific research is a process of exploration, which is subject to success or failure. Mr. Ren has won numerous honors and awards from the state, Beijing municipality, the Ministry of Construction and so on for his substantive contribution to teaching and scientific research.

IVRetirement:Numerous Honors Bring in Brilliant Achievements

Found Fund to Benefit Younger Students

After the conclusion of the Beijing Tianjin Hebei Integration Forum at the end of 2014, the inaugural ceremony of the branch of the Alumni Association of BJUT for the transportation industry was held. Mr. Ren donated 1 million yuan to establish the “Ren Futian” Transportation Scholarship of BJUT in support of outstanding young students to explore science with progress. This fully mirrors Mr. Ren Futian’s continuous attention to the development of the university’s education and the discipline of transportation. Driven by his strong affection to the university, venerable Mr. Ren, regardless of his age, still contributes his suggestions for the cause of transportation engineering among the university with his own parts and productive assistance after retirement. As Mr. Ren said when he reviewed his life experience, it was the Party and the state that groomed him, so he should cherish the opportunity of study and work and try his best to do more. He hoped that younger generations from BJUT can follow the example of their teachers, remember their alma mater, and contribute their enthusiasm and efforts to the development of the university.

Message to young students

At the end of this interview, Mr. Ren expressed his expectation that graduates should be down-to-earth, dutiful and friendly when leaving the campus and heading into the real world. Graduates also should learn to cooperate and adeptly seek co-workers to better complete the task. New grads should respect their profession, keep devoted to research, identify the goal, seek for breakthroughs, and reserve our strength as soon as possible. For the development of universities and colleges, Mr. Ren hopes to strengthen his own characteristics in specialty management and development goals, move with the times and innovate constantly.

Mr. Ren’s cordial words are just like what he wrote in his “teaching notes”: study hard, work steadfastly, honor parents and serve the country. May all BJUTers move forward with this encouragement.