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

From Smart Polymers to Panda Triplets: Trip Diary of Paul Topham in China

Dr Paul Topham is a recipient of the 2016 SAFEA-RSC visiting researchers programme to China. In January 2016, he travelled to China to meet potential new collaborators at South China University of Technology and he took the opportunity to catch up with existing contacts in Guangdong University of Technology and Tongji University. He shared his passion for smart polymers with the Chinese scientists and learnt about Chinese culture and good Chinese sayings such as: Learn extensively, inquire thoroughly, ponder prudently, distinguish clearly and practice devotedly”.

"Although my visit to China was only one week, I feel that it was very productive and will begin a number of very strong collaborations between my group and those met this week.", said Dr Paul Topham, Reader in polymer chemistry at Aston University in the UK. 

My RSC-SAFEA trip to China was a tightly packed week (17th – 22nd January 2016) of research discussions and wonderful cultural exchange, where I visited three Chinese Universities (two in Guangzhou and one in Shanghai), spending most of my time at the South China University of Technology (as discussed below with a rough breakdown of my week).
Arrived late on Sunday night 17th January at the South China University of Technology (SCUT), Guangzhou, P.R. China.

Monday 18th January
After a brief tour of the Department of Polymer Science and Technology in the morning, I was taken to lunch with Prof Linge Wang and Assoc. Prof Hongsheng Liu (School of Food and Light Industry), picture below outside a restaurant in the Wushan campus of SCUT.
From left to right: Linge Wang, Hongsheng Liu, Paul Topham

After lunch, I delivered a research seminar in the School of Materials Science and Technology SCUT on “Smart Polymers: Molecular Machines from pH-Responsive Gels”, followed by a Research meeting with the Head of Department, Professor Shizhu Wu, concerning a joint project on cleavable polymer systems to detect liver disease. This is a new collaboration and are both now looking for joint schemes to fund this venture.
In the evening, I was taken to dinner with Professor Linge Wang’s Polymer Nanomaterial Research Group and Professor Julian Zhu from the Université de Montréal, Canada (see photo below).

Banquet dinner at SCUT

Tuesday 19th January
Professor Linge Wang and Associate Professor Xiangjun Gong took Professor Zhu and I on a cultural trip to the Chimelong Safari park in the Panyu district of Guangzhou CIty, where we saw the famous panda triplets (and their extended family), Bengal tigers, elephants, flamingos, rhinos, hippos, lions and many more.

From left to right: Xiangjun Gong, Paul Topham, Julian Zhu, Linge Wang

Panda Triplets

Wednesday 20th January
This day was dedicated to continuing research discussions with Professor Linge Wang, where we worked in his office on data analysis, paper construction and proposal planning. In the afternoon, Professor Wang took me on a tour of the expansive SCUT campus, with its characteristic buildings, beautiful lakes and impressive sports facilities (pictured below with the University’s “Motto Stone”, which roughly translates as “Learn extensively, inquire thoroughly, ponder prudently, distinguish clearly and practice devotedly”), before returning for more collaborative research work).
Paul Topham with SCUT's "motto stone"

Thursday 21st January
I travelled across Guangzhou to the Guangdong University of Technology to meet the Associate Dean of School of Chemical Engineering and Light Industry, Professor Jianwei Guo. Here, we had some brief research meetings before I delivered a departmental research seminar.

Paul Topham with Professor Jianwei Guo's research group

Following lunch, a final year PhD student in Professor Guo’s research group, Miss Shuqin Fu, took Professor Wang and I on a tour of the Lingnan Impression, which is a beautiful setting on the riverside with gardens and many historic buildings, and paraphernalia from various decades of China’s recent past. During this tour, I saw my first shadow puppet show, which was impressive and really good fun! In the coming months, Miss Fu and I will be working together on a new proposal to try to bring her to the UK to carry out research in my group.

Paul Topham with Miss Shuqin Fu

Following discussions and the tour with Miss Fu, I flew to Shanghai to meet Professor Jianzhong Du at Tongji University. This was an extremely brief visit to explore a new collaboration with the Polymer Group there.

Friday 22nd January
In the morning, I met up with Dr Justin Xu, from the Royal Society of Chemistry, and we both gave presentations to the Du Research Group, in the Materials Department at Tongji University. After an extremely good banquet with Professor Du and his research group (as well as Dr Xu and Professor Andrew Dove from the University of Warwick, who is visiting the group at the moment), I flew back to the UK.

From left to right: Justin Xu, Paul Topham, Jianzhong Du and Andrew Dove

Although my visit to China was only one week, I feel that it was very productive and will begin a number of very strong collaborations between my group and those met this week.
Posted by Kathleen Too on Feb 1, 2016 11:32 AM Europe/London

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