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

Eli Zysman-Colman learns all about Sun-Yat-Sen during his trip to China

Dr Eli Zysman-Colman visited China at the beginning of November as part of the 2015 SAFEA-RSC visiting researchers programme. He went to Hong Kong to visit some of his contacts, followed by a visit to Sun-Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou and Nanjing Technological University in Nanjing where Sun-Yat-Sen mausoleum is found. He also managed to squeeze a quick hello to his postdoctoral supervisor, Prof Jay Siegel in Tianjin University. "This was my first trip to China and it exceeded all of my expectations....I saw some great chemistry and met many new colleagues, some of whom I hope will become collaborators and friends.", says Eli Zysman-Colman. Snippets of his trip diary can be read here. 

Eli Zysman-Colman (University of St-Andrews)

October 31  leave St Andrews early in the morning for a long trip to Hong Kong via Amsterdam.  Trip goes very smoothly.

November 1  I arrive in Hong Kong.  It is a mega city in the best sense of the term.  There is so much activity.  I arrive at my hotel somewhat exhausted and get some much-needed sleep then I caught up on work after a quick swim.

November 2 – Visit to City University of Hong Kong where Prof. Ken Lo is hosting me.  I had some fruitful discussions with colleagues along with a lovely Dim Sum lunch.  My seminar is well attended too.  We then go to hear Prof. Chad Mirkin (Northwestern) speak at Hong Kong Polytechnic University where he gave an engaging talk on spherical DNA assemblies.  Ken then took me around the city and we admired the skyline. This is followed by a lovely meal at a Pekinese restaurant.

November 3 – Visit to the University of Hong Kong where Prof. Vivian Yam is hosting me.  We have a lovely lunch with colleagues.  The afternoon is spent discussing chemistry with colleagues and also getting a tour of UHK.  After the seminar, Vivian takes me out for Japanese food.  All together it is a delightful day.

November 4 – I had dim sum in my hotel then took the train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou where I was met by Dr. Sheng Qiang. Dr. Qiang took me to my hotel on the campus of Sun Yat-Sen university.  I then met with Prof. Biao Wang, who is my host here.  Prof. Wang showed me his lab and his outstanding setup. We then toured part of the Sun Yat-Sen campus, which is beautiful and full of old and flowering trees, a refuge from the big city that surrounds it.  We had many good discussions, finishing with a meal of Guangzhou specialities at the hotel.


November 5  I was picked up and we drove to the Zhuhai campus and Institut Franco-Chinois de l'Energie Nucleaire (IFCEN), where Prof. Wang is a co-director there.  We had lunch along with Mr. Chen, who is the administrative head at IFCEN, at a local restaurant by the sea.  Afterwards, I was shown the various laboratories of IFCEN which are all state-of-the art and concentrate on research dealing with nuclear energy and safety.  I was then given a guided tour of Zhuhai.  This was followed by a lovely dinner with Prof. Wang and Mr. Chen at a local seafood restaurant in Zhuhai.

November 6 – I gave a seminar at IFCEN in front of all of the staff.  Though removed from their work on nuclear energy, I think they appreciated the link with energy-related research that I was able to offer.  We then drove back to Guangzhou where I gave a second lecture at Sun Yat-Sen University in front of mainly students from the School of physics and engineering.  Afterwards, Prof. Wang took me out for a wonderful Cantonese dinner, which went very well with the whisky I brought for him. Prof. Wang was a truly gracious and generous host.

Eli Zysman-Colman with Prof Biao Wang (Sun Yat-Sen University)

November 7 – I was driven to the airport by Prof. Wang’s driver, where I caught my flight to Nanjing.  Guangzhou’s airport is massive but very efficient.  I think my plane actually left early.  I was picked up by Ms. Xiaotong Yu, an administrative assistant to Prof. Wei Huang at Nanjing Tech University, who drove me to my hotel in Nanjing.   I took a relaxing Saturday evening. For dinner, I had wonderful Nanjing style noodles.

November 8 -–  This was a free day to see Nanjing.  I walked around the city, including to Xuanwu lake and park.   This is a very large lake in the center of the city.  In the middle are a series of islands with lovely walking trails that seemed to be very popular with the locals.

November 9 – I got picked up at 13h30 and gave a seminar at Nanjing Tech University, which was very well attended and warmly received. Afterwards, I had a very fruitful discussion with Prof. Jianpu Wang.  This was followed up with dinner with faculty, where we partook in a variety of spicy dishes.

November 10 – I got picked up at 9h45 and spent 1.5 hours with Prof. Youtian Tao and her group, discussing organic optoelectronics.  Afterwards, she arranged for two of her students to show me around Nanjing.  We partook in all sorts of delicious Nanjing specialties, visited the Sun Yat-Sen mausoleum on top of the Purple Mountain and then walked around the lovely redeveloped area near Confucius temple, full of restaurants and shops until late at night.  All in all I had a wonderful experience.

November 11 – I took a high-speed train from Nanjing to Tianjin.  Nanjing South station is massive in scale. Nothing really compares to it in size in the UK.  As with most infrastructure that I have seen in China, it is new and worked flawlessly. The train ride was smooth and I travelled at an average speed of 300 km/h.   I arrived in Tianjin, where it was cold and very cloudy.  I took a taxi to my hotel and relaxed.  For dinner I met up with Prof. Jay Siegel for whom I did my postdoc at the University of Zurich.  Jay is now Dean of Life Sciences at Tianjin University. It was great to catch up with Jay, which we did over quite good sashimi and sake at a Japanese restaurant nearby.  We followed it up with discussions over whisky, which I brought him, at a lovely local bar where Jazz played in the background.

November 12 – Jay picked me up and we walked to Tianjin University.  The SPST building is in the midst of a big renovations and from looking at the sections completed, I can imagine what a wonderful state-of-the-art research complex it will become in a couple of years.  I later found out that Tianjin University is the oldest university in China, but just 120 years old.  I gave my last talk of the China trip. Afterwards, I got taken out for a lovely and quite tasty lunch of Peking specialties by postgraduate students of the program, many of whom were in Jay’s group.  Afterwards, I met with several other members of the faculty until dinnertime.  These were all newly-appointed faculty, having come over from the United States.  I went out for dinner with some of the faculty and also students.  We went for surprisingly good Italian food.  Tianjin, which looks like a soulless large city on the surface, is actually full of surprises.

November 13 –  I worked in my hotel room for most of the day and then took a hair-raising taxi ride to the airport, where things then ran smoothly for the long trip back home.

Summary  This was my first trip to China and it exceeded all of my expectations.  I felt safe travelling and people were kind and generous, despite the obvious language barrier.  Each of the Chinese cities I visited, though each large, had its own character.  I ate very well and satisfied my craving for authentic Chinese food. I saw some great chemistry and met many new colleagues, some of whom I hope will become collaborators and friends.
Posted by Kathleen Too on Dec 10, 2015 5:23 PM Europe/London

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