Professor Cheng received his formal education at the Beijing College of Geology (now China University of Geosciences, Beijing), with a specialty in hydrogeological engineering. After graduating in 1965, he has served continuously in professorial and leading administrative positions at the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology and its successor institution, the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He was elected a CAS Academician in 1993. Since 2007 he has also been Director-General of the Division of Geosciences of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Over the course of his career, he has held many other high-level positions on prestigious national committees and task forces.
Professor Cheng’s scientific interests and publications span a broad range of topics related to permafrost, including periglacial processes, mountain permafrost, mechanisms of ground ice formation, mapping of ground ice and permafrost, permafrost and climate change, and most prominently, permafrost engineering. His work on ice segregation and the formation of what is now known as the transient layer is highly influential. Equally important is his work on the design of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. His publication list includes more than 200 scientific papers, many in international journals. He has served as editor of three important Chinese cold-regions journals, and as a member of the editorial boards of several international journals, including Permafrost and Periglacial Processes and Cold Regions Science and Technology.
Professor Cheng has broad international experience in permafrost science. In the mid-1980s he was a visiting Research Fellow at the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. He has served as Director of the Glaciology and Geocryology Center of the World Data Center (1993-2005). In the International Permafrost Association, he was Vice President from 1988-93 and became President for five years at the Sixth International Permafrost Conference held in Beijing. Since 2009 he has been a Foreign Academician of the Russian Academy of Engineering.
Dedication to effective education is another hallmark of Professor Cheng’s 50-year career in permafrost science and engineering. He was an advisor to more than 40 doctoral students, sponsored 15 postdoctoral fellows, and served as a role model for hundreds of other Chinese students. It is no exaggeration to say that Cheng Guodong is the main person responsible for leading China to its high present standing in permafrost science and engineering.
The IPA Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who have made “outstanding contributions to research in permafrost science and engineering, and/or exceptional contributions to the international permafrost community.” Academician Cheng Guodong clearly merits this award based on these criteria and joins Professors J. Ross Mackay (2010) and Nikolai N. Romanovskii (2012) in receiving this honor.