Professor Tsung‐Dao Lee is considered as one of the World's greatest and broadest theoretical physicists. Through his distinguished scientific career and involvement in both China and the United States, he has received a long list of recognitions including the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics shared with Professor Chen‐Ning Yang for the prediction of parity violation. Since the early seventies of last century, Professor Lee has made great efforts to establish and strengthen academic exchanges and collaborations between Chinese and American physics communities. He is attributed for several historic developments in physical researches and the cultivation of talents in younger generations for modern China.

The T.D. Lee Institute is a national initiative by Chinese Central Government in recognition of Professor Lee's great contribution in physics. In December of 2014, with the aim to boost researches in basic sciences and interdisciplinary fields, Professor Lee submitted a proposal, to Chinese central government, for establishing a top‐notch physics research institute that is similar to the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen and Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. The central government has strongly committed to this endeavor.

On November 28, 2016, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education and the Municipal Government of Shanghai jointly decided to establish a national research institute in Shanghai under the name of Professor Tsung‐Dao Lee. The initiative is then immediately joined with investment by National Science Foundation of China.  Shanghai Jiao Tong University is retained and approved by the government to operate the new Institute as its contractor and trustee.

The Institute aims to undertake three basic missions: 1) provides a platform to foster academic training, exchange, and collaborations for worldwide physicists; 2) hosts cutting‐ edge research programs on most fundamental questions in particle physics, cosmology and quantum physics with potential expansion to include other related areas such as the application of quantum mechanics to bioprocesses; 3) actively engages in general public science education.

The Institute employs three types of research staff: 1) permanent members, 2) short term members, and 3) jointly appointed members. Permanent members are typically top physicists from the fields representing the Institute's main interest. Short‐term members include visiting scholars at various levels, junior TD Lee fellows, post‐doctoral scholars, and doctoral students. Jointly appointed members are active leading‐experts at the research frontiers of those fields, mostly from domestic major research institutions.