UCSD Alumni


Junling Sun

It is almost 9,500 miles from UC San Diego to Guangzhou  (China’s third largest city with a population of more than 12 million), but for Junling Sun, his alma mater  is a home away from home. Sun was a doctoral student at Jacobs School of Engineering from 1988 to 1993, and later worked in the United States before returning to China.  Last week he came “home” to UC San Diego to present Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla with a gift of $125,000 toward the chancellor’s new scholarship initiatives.

“I didn’t have the money to go to UC San Diego. I graduated on a full scholarship,” Sun told Triton magazine in a recent interview. “I mean without UCSD support, I don’t know where I would be. So I felt that I owed that to UCSD. And secondly, I’m proud of UCSD and what it stands for. The founders had a dream. And they were not afraid to fail. They commit this University to excellence, and they had the will to do it.”

Sun, who is president of Sun Engineering Consultants International (SECI), is an internationally reknowned bridge builder. He was the chief engineer on the Shibanpo Bridge, the main span of which is 330 metres (1,080 ft), making it the largest box-girder bridge in the world. Completed in 2006, it crosses the Yangtze River at the city of Chongqing. Sun lovingly refers to it as his baby. “It’s tough to be a bridge,” he says, “but it’s tougher to be a world record. It’s carrying enormous, loads and being pounded by heavy traffic every day.”

His company is currently working in a number of cities from Hong Kong to New York. The projects range from safety assessment work on the Hong Kong-Macao link (a $15 billion bridge and tunnel combination, 45 kilometers in length); to a nuclear reactor in Guangzhou, China; to consultancy on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the mouth of New York Harbor.

Sun returned to China after spending 18 years in the United States, and established his company in Guangzhou in 2006. It now employs 80 engineers. But Sun never forgot his debt to UC San Diego and, soon after he returned, he started building connections between Chinese alumni and the University.  “When I went back to China, I thought about initiating a China program, for alumni,” Sun says, “because even though we are now doing a better job, nobody knew much about UC San Diego. I felt a little bit sad about that, so we started working on an alumni association in China.”

Sun is enthusiastic about the potential for greater growth and connections between the University and his native country. “China needs an institution like UC San Diego. It needs people who are not afraid to innovate and not afraid to fail, in engineering, the sciences, and in everything else,” Sun told Triton Magazine. “But if you look at it from the opposite point of view, UC San Diego needs China too, in order to be a global leader.”