Chen graduated from South China Agricultural College with his master’s degree in 1982. Since graduation, he has worked as a member of South China Agricultural University faculty. He held a visiting position at Arkansas University in 1987.
His research interest is genetics and breeding, in particular paddy rice genetics and breeding. Chen has headed China’s 863 High-tech Research and Development Program, National Major Scientific & Technology Industrial Engineering Project, and key projects of the Provincial Natural Science Foundation. Chen was once awarded National Excellent Scientific Teacher and has won the Third Prize of Excellent Young Teacher Award supported by Fok Yin-tung Foundation of the Ministry of Education. Since 2002, he has been receiving a special allowance from the State Council.
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