His main research activities include cooling, drying and refrigeration processes and systems, quality and safety of food products, bioprocess simulation and optimisation, and computer vision / image processing and hyperspectral imaging technologies. Especially, his many scholarly works have become standard reference materials for researchers in the areas of hyperspectral imaging, computer vision, ultrasonic freezing, vacuum cooling, computational fluid dynamics modelling, etc. Results of his work have been published in over 1,000 papers including more than 500 peer-reviewed journal papers indexed by Web of Science, with an average citation of over 38 per paper (Web of Science h-index = 95, SCOPUS h-index = 100, Google Scholar h-index = 109), among them, 54 papers have been selected by the Essential Science IndicatorsSM as Highly Cited / Hot Papers in Field, ranking him No. 2 in the world in Agricultural Sciences. He has also edited 17 authoritative books. In addition, Professor Sun has been named Highly Cited Researcher in the last 4 consecutive years (2015- 2018) by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters).
He received a first class BSc Honours and MSc in Mechanical Engineering, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering in China before working in various universities in Europe. He became the first Chinese national to be permanently employed in an Irish University when he was appointed College Lecturer at National University of Ireland, Dublin (University College Dublin) in 1995, and was then continuously promoted in the shortest possible time to Associate Professor, Professor, and Full Professor. Dr Sun is now the Full Professor of Food and Biosystems Engineering and Director of the Food Refrigeration and Computerised Food Technology Research Group at University College Dublin (UCD).
As a leading educator in food engineering, Professor Sun has significantly contributed to the field of food engineering. He has trained many PhD students, who have made their own contributions to the industry and academia. He has also given lectures on advances in food engineering on a regular basis in academic institutions internationally and delivered plenary or keynote speeches at major international conferences. In recognition of his significant contribution to Food Engineering worldwide and for his outstanding leadership in the field, the International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (CIGR) awarded him the “CIGR Merit Award” in 2000, in 2006, and again in 2016, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) based in the UK named him “Food Engineer of the Year 2004”, in 2008 he was awarded “CIGR Recognition Award” in honour of his distinguished achievements as the top one percent of Agricultural Engineering scientists in the world. In 2007 he was presented with the only “AFST(I) Fellow Award” in that year by the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India). In 2010 he received the “CIGR Fellow Award”, the title of Fellow is the highest honour in CIGR, and is conferred to individuals who have made sustained, outstanding contributions worldwide. In March 2013, he was presented with the “You Bring Charm to the World Award” by Hong Kong based Phoenix Satellite Television with other award recipients including the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature and the Chinese Astronaut Team for Shenzhou IX Spaceship, in July 2013 he received “The Frozen Food Foundation Freezing Research Award” from International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) for his significant contributions to enhancing the field of food freezing technologies, this is the first time that this prestigious award was presented to a scientist outside the USA. In June 2015 he was presented with the “IAEF Lifetime Achievement Award”, this IAEF (International Association of Engineering and Food) award highlights the lifetime contribution of a prominent engineer in the field of food, and in February 2018, he was conferred with the honorary doctorate degree by Universidad Privada del Norte in Peru.