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

Gonçalo Bernardes gives a lecture tour in China and visits the new generation of Newton's Apple tree

Dr Gonçalo Bernardes who is based at the University of Cambridge travelled to China for the first time. He is a 2016 recipient of the SAFEA-RSC Visiting Researchers travel grant and took this opportunity to visit Tianjin University and Peking University. In Tianjin, he was hosted by Professor Nathaniel Finney and Professor Jay Siegel, Dean of the School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology (SPST) of Tianjin University, and in Beijing, he was hosted by Professor Peng Chen at Peking University (PKU). "This is one of the few Chemical Biology Departments in the world where some fantastic research is being done..."said Dr Bernardes. Dr Gonçalo Bernardes is also the recipient of the 2016 Chem Soc Rev Emerging Investigator Lectureship and his visit to China was part of his 2016 lecture tour. 

Read more about his trip diary in China here

Gonçalo Bernardes at the west gate of Peking University

Sunday 3 April 2016

It’s 9:50 am and I just landed in Beijing on schedule after a very nice flight from London. It’s my first time in China and I am very excited both for getting to visit Tianjin and Beijing and get the culture experience and also to visit, present our research and discuss science with my hosts at Tianjin, Tsinghua and PKU. I expect a very intense and interesting week. For later today and during tomorrow a group of students will show me around Tianjin as tomorrow is a national holiday for the celebration of the Qingming Festival. 

After an epic car transfer from Beijing to Tianjin – I say epic because I felt like I was driving in south Italy where some driving rules do not apply – I was picked up at the hotel by a student guide, Ema, that showed me the Tianjin University campus with its amazing blossom trees and took me for dinner at a local place where many students usually go to eat “hot pot”. Ema was fantastic showing me around the campus and taking me to eat this typical meal, which I enjoyed very much.

Now its time to recover from the long flight…

Blossoms in Tianjin
Hot Pot Experience

Monday 4 April 2016

The day started with the breakfast “challenge”, choosing the food from a Chinese breakfast buffet is definitely not an easy task. This is even more true if no staff is able to help you as they do not speak any English. In fact, and despite staying at an international hotel, only the hotel director is able to speak some English. 

Ema, my student guide, picked me up at the hall of the hotel around 10 am and took me to visit Tianjin. This included from the most typical neighborhoods to the Ancient Cultural Street. The mix or modern and very high buildings with the traditional Chinese is all over Tianjin.
Ancient Cultural Streets of Tianjin

After a long day of visits and experiences of Cantonese cuisine, I am ready and very much looking forward to start with my science meetings and to give my first seminar  tomorrow. First stop, School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology of the Tianjin University! Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Ema who made my first two days in Tianjin a fantastic experience. 


Tuesday 5 April 2016

This is an exciting day: my first scientific day and seminar here in China. I first met Prof. Nathaniel Finney, who organized my schedule, and took me to the School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology (SPST) of Tianjin University. We first saw the teaching and research laboratories, all shiny brand new, before I met with my host Prof. Jay Siegel. It was indeed great to see Jay again after a few occasions we met in Zürich, when I was a postdoctoral researcher at the ETH and he was the Director of the Organic Chemistry Institute of the University of Zürich. It was a very pleasant and inspiring meeting. It was then time for my seminar, which took about 50 minutes plus 10-15 minutes of discussion. I presented our most recent work on “Chemical Pharmacology of Protein Conjugates and Natural Products” and I got the feeling, from the questions and discussion, that my seminar was well appreciated by the faculty and students. After the seminar the students took me for another fantastic meal before I had a fantastic tour through the Tianjin University museum. This was truly fascinating to get to know the history of the oldest University and China and surely one that has been leading University teaching and research. After this tour, I met individually and discussed science with some faculty members. The day ended with a dinner with Jay and some faculty where again we enjoyed an incredible Chinese meal.

Tianjin University History Museum

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Wednesday was my last day at Tianjin before taking the fast train to Beijing. I had the opportunity to meet with Faculty members and had one particularly chat, with Prof. Bureik, that was really exciting as we could devise a possible collaborative project to use one particularly enzyme overexpressed in breast cancer to turn a prodrug into a very potent drug in situ. I then also had the opportunity to spend more time with my host Prof. Siegel, and we discussed inclusive the possibility of returning to Tianjin to give a one or two week course on Chemical Biology. Finally I had the opportunity to take a photo by the Newton Apple Tree, which was originally brought from Cambridge…

Goncalo Bernardes with Professor Jay Siegel visiting Newton’s Apple Tree

Thursday 7 April 2016

This was my first day in Beijing. I had the opportunity to visit the Department of Chemistry of Tsinghua University where I was hosted by Prof Yan-Mei Li. I gave my seminar for about 1 hour which was followed by a Q&A session. During the afternoon I met with several PI’s had very interesting discussions regarding the chemistry done at Tsinghua. My day ended with a visit to the campus of Tsinghua University – it is a truly beautiful campus with amazing lakes and where one can relax and think about new ideas.
Lake at Tsinghua University

Friday 8 April 2016

And, now it came my last day in China before going back home. I am missing too much my wife and baby boy and I look forward to this. But I also woke up very excited because I had a very promising schedule for my day at the Department of Chemical Biology at PKU. This is one of the few Chemical Biology Departments in the world where some fantastic research is being done. I was hosted by Prof Peng Chen who received me around 9 am in his office. The day was simply great. I gave my seminar to a room absolutely full – this was also my first lecture that made part of the Chem Soc Rev Emerging Investigator Lectureship 2016 tour. I had many questions and after met with one potential PhD student and one potential Postdoctoral researcher from PKU. The afternoon was reserved for scientific discussions with PI’s and a number of possible collaborations were outline as for example with Profs Chen and Chu. The day ended with a fantastic dinner where I had Peking Duck with some of the faculty. There could be no better way to finish my trip with an invitation to return to China and PKU and I am very thankful to the Royal Society of Chemistry-SAFEA for making this possible through their support.
Posted by Kathleen Too on May 4, 2016 5:11 PM Europe/London

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