In 2009, the Royal Society of Chemistry signed a cooperation agreement with the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), a division of the Chinese Government. As part of a wider governmental initiative to enhance the global impact of Chinese science and China’s higher education institutions, the RSC and SAFEA provide funding for a Visiting Researchers Programme. This encourages academics from the UK to visit Chinese universities to share best practice, advise Chinese researchers on presenting their research to an international audience and to stimulate collaboration between UK and Chinese institutions.
 
This blog provides a space for participants to share their experiences and for the RSC to highlight the opportunities that stem from the SAFEA programme.

*The map is reproduced from the United Nations Statistics Division
 

Falko Drijfhout Returns From Zheijang University, Hangzhou, China

Dr Falko Drijfhout from Keele University has also just returned from his trip to Zheijang University in Hangzhou, China.

He has visited Zheijang before, in September last year, when he got chatting to a Chinese researcher who was interested in collaborating on research into whiteflies, a serious pest to crops. This year the RSC has sponsored a second visit for him to discuss their ongoing research on the role of hydrocarbons in whitefly behaviour and identification.

Read more about Falko's trip and the story behind this collaborative work...

History

Last year September I visited Zhejiang University for the first time. It was an intensive 8-day visit, but in the end I managed to have several discussions with a range of different researchers at the University. In the few months that followed my visit I kept in contact with several of them. I was asked to proofread two manuscripts before they were send off to the journal and both of them have now been accepted.

In May 2012 I was approached by Dr Luan Bo, one of the researchers in Professor Liu’s lab. I met Professor Liu last year and we had some brief discussions regarding his research on whiteflies. Dr Bo asked if I would be willing to advise them and possibly collaborate on a more or less new project on the role of hydrocarbons in whitefly behaviour and identification. As this is very much in line of my own research I willingly accepted the invitation. I suggested to them that it would be very fruitful if I was able to visit them again and I asked if that would be possible. I was very pleased with the positive reaction from the department at Zhejiang University as well as the RSC for being able to sponsor me for a second visit. The main focus for this visit therefore was to discuss the on-going work on whiteflies (a serious pest insect) as well as the new route into the role of hydrocarbons in species identification of some unknown whitefly species/subspecies. The second aim of this trip was to visit Xiaozhuang University in Nanjing (not very far from Hangzhou) to discuss the possible teaching collaboration between Keele University and Xiaozhuang University.

Visit

The following report will primarily focus on the trip to Zhejiang University as this was part of the visiting professor scheme I’m part of initiated by the RSC.

Due to the dual nature of the visit and the short time in planning the visit it was a much shorter visit with me spending two days at Nanjing University (2nd and 3rd July) and three days (4th - 6th July) at Zheijang University.

I flew into Shanghai on Saturday 30th June arriving around 4pm at the hotel spend the rest of the afternoon getting over the jet-lag. My first meeting with the dean of Chemistry and a few other staff of the Chemistry teaching at Xiaozhuang University was for dinner on Sunday 1st July, so around 12pm I set of from the hotel via the metro to Hongqiao Railway Station (75 minute journey) to take the fast train to Nanjing, a journey of about 2 hours. I arrived in Nanjing between 3-4pm at a brand new and massive train station where I was met by Angela Jane, my host for the next few days. After settling in my hotel room, we went for dinner, where I was able to discuss the possibility for any joint teaching in the future. The following day I visited the chemistry labs. Unfortunately all the students had left by this time, so I was not able to speak to any of them, but it was a good opportunity to be able to compare two different universities in China. As was my experience last year, I was taken on a tour around Nanjing the following day, although the weather was very hot.

What struck me visiting Nanjing is the fast rate at which the city is developing. What was a large building 4-5 years ago is now swamped by several other large skyscrapers. Late that afternoon I left Nanjing to move to Hangzhou.
I arrived in Hangzhou around 8.30pm and was picked up by Dr Yin-Quang Liu and Dan-Mei Yao, PhD student of professor Liu who is working on the hydrocarbon analysis. At the hotel I was greeted by Dr Chunxiao Zheng from the RSC office in Beijing, whom I have met last year as well. Since my last visit the institute of Insect Sciences has now moved to the new campus as well and hence I stayed close to the new campus this year.



My three day visit started with a brief introduction by Professor Liu about his research on whiteflies and the reason for analysing their cuticular (surface) hydrocarbons. Hereafter I gave a lecture on the analysis and use of hydrocarbons in insects, which was very well attended by both students and staff, see photo above. I was also pleased to see that a few students I had met last year were present as well. After my lecture, I was given a tour of the facilities. The rest of the afternoon as well as the following day we discussed their research and how to progress. Before my visit the PhD students extracted some whiteflies and analysed those with GC-MS. Our discussion sometimes turned into a mini workshop on how to identify the hydrocarbons based on their mass spectra. We also spend quite a long time to discuss the various ways to collect the hydrocarbons from the whiteflies, without any contamination from the internal compounds, as the whiteflies are small and fragile. In the long term it would hopefully be possible for Dan-Mei to come and spend some time in the UK at Keele University. We also discussed some further collaboration options, especially with Dr Yiu and his plans to start a new project on pheromones of a pest beetle. Plans are currently on their way to establish a bioassay, which will be followed by chemical identification of the pheromones. A project I hope to be part of some time next year.



Although it was a full and busy day, I managed to free up some time to spend with another PhD student to talk about one of his publications, which I have seen previously. The manuscript about the unique chemical environment in the gut of a fungus growing termite has been accepted but the editor requested a native English speaker to go over it. I promised him to read it in the next few days and am pleased to say that it has now been fully accepted by the journal. The next stage in this project is to determine the breakdown products during wood digestion using Pyr-GC-MS and I was asked if I would like to collaborate and advise on this project, which I was very happy to do.



The last day of my visit, Friday 6th July, I visited the Chemistry department during the morning. My host was professor Yuanjian Pan, a professor in Natural Products chemistry. Again I was asked to give a lecture and although it was the summer and very warm, many students turned up to listen to my talk, which was organized very last minute, with some good questions. This was followed by a presentation by one of the post-docs in the lab on their recent development in DCCC. I was impressed by the huge amount of work and publications from the natural products group. Hereafter I was given a quick tour around the building. It was clear from this tour that the university is able to invest in buying several new and some quite expensive equipment, which gives high hopes for some good further research.

I’m very pleased that I was able to visit Zhejiang University again. It was good to catch up with some researchers (especially PhD students) I met last year, but unfortunately I missed some academic members as they were away and I didn’t have enough time to plan this in my schedule. During these two visits I have built up several potential collaborations, both within research and teaching Chemistry and I look forward to either visit them again, or be able to host them in the UK.
Posted by Amy Styring on Aug 16, 2012 1:24 PM Europe/London

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