Chen is professor at Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU). He obtained his BSc and MSc degrees from SYSU in 1983 and 1986, respectively, and PhD from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in 1989. He was elected to Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2009. He served as dean of the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at SYSU and vice-president of the Chinese Crystallographic Society. His prizes include Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Research (2014), TWAS Prize in Chemistry (2012), Thomson Reuters Research Fronts Award (2008), National Natural Science Prize of China (2007), and Distinguished Young Scientist Award by Qiu Shi Science and Technologies Foundation (1999).