Zhou Lei at work. CHINA DAILY
A sculpture entitled Ruziniu, or the Willing Steers, has graced the lawn of the University of Science and Technology of China's Hefei campus for nearly 40 years.
Donated in 1983 by alumni from the Class of 1978, it depicts two steers turning the Earth using all their strength.
The word "steer" in Chinese is niu, which can also mean powerful and awesome, and the university says the sculpture illustrates their determination to change the world.
Zhou Lei studied and worked at the campus in Anhui province's capital for 11 years before he left to start work at QuantumCTek, a local leader in the field of quantum information.
"As a student, my dream was to work at an awesome company doing awesome things," Zhou told China Daily.
Born in 1981 in Changchun, capital of the northeastern province of Jilin, Zhou started at USTC in 2000 and got his first degree in physical electronics. In early 2009, as he was about to graduate with a PhD, he received an offer to work in R&D at the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in Shenzhen.
It was a prestigious offer, but Zhou was already focused on another goal. Renowned quantum physicist Pan Jianwei had been assembling an academic team at USTC since 2001, and in 2009, he proposed that the university help found a company to continue the group's research and commercialize its findings.
The company they created, QuantumCTek, started up in the Hefei National High-tech Industry Development Zone in May 2009 as the first quantum information company in Anhui and would become the country's first publicly traded company in the field in 2020, with USTC as its largest shareholder.
Zhou spent two more years doing postdoctoral work at the university with Pan's team, keeping abreast of the latest scientific breakthroughs and developing a better understanding of business opportunities before joining QuantumCTek in 2011.
Today, he is the company's project director and has been involved in many of the national breakthroughs in quantum communications and quantum computing.
He said QuantumCTek's primary task is to turn quantum theory from research into actual products and services. Their dream is to build quantum information networks, like a quantum internet, capable of connecting quantum computers, sensors and other terminals via quantum information technology.
Zhou joined the Communist Party of China in 2009 and was recently elected as an Anhui representative to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, which will be held in Beijing later this year.
Anhui now has dozens of quantum information companies, most of them in Hefei and many in the same district where Zhou works, which has now been dubbed "Quantum Avenue".