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

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Today I was picked up at my accommodation by Professor Tie-Zhen Ren, and we battled the traffic to drive across town to Hebei Polytechnic University where she is based. Although Hebei Polytechnic University was noticeably less well funded and less prestigious than Nankai University, the staff and students were particularly welcoming and there was a large turnout to see my lecture. Before arriving in China I had provided the title of three possible lectures to all the Universities I was visiting, however virtually all of them asked to see my presentation on MOF chemistry. It seems that this field of chemistry has really taken off in China with many groups involved in research on crystal engineering, coordination polymers and MOFs. I am feeling confident that as a result of my trip I will be able to forge several new research collaborations in this area.
After my lecture I was able to talk informally to some of the undergraduate students and give them some advice and help with specific problems they were encountering, such as determining the topology of networked materials. I always enjoy talking to keen and enthusiastic students, and this was no exception. I also had a good chat with some of the staff about challenges facing academics the world over – namely funding and publications! I was very pleased to be able to recommend the RSC publications to them, not least because the RSC was sponsoring my trip to China, but also since the RSC now have several permanent offices in China and a constantly growing number of editors and reviewers based in the country.
In a change from the usual Chinese food, for dinner we went to a boutique pizza restaurant. This choice was particularly well received by Professor Ren’s young son who joined us, since pizza was one of his favourite foods (and mine too!).
Posted by Rob Davies on Oct 26, 2010 9:21 AM BST

The end of my first day in China and I am sitting in my very pleasant, large and thankfully air-conditioned rooms in the “Foreigners Guest House” on the campus of Nankai Univeristy. Yesterday I did finally make it onto the plane, though sadly no upgrade! I arrived in Beijing at 10am after a ten hour flight and was met by Rosemary from the RSC’s Beijing office. It was great to see a friendly face, and she briefed me on my schedule before whisking me off to the Taxi rank and a trip to the mainline train station in Beijing. From there I took the impressively fast express train (up to 350 kmph) to Tianjin, which at this speed was just a 30 minute ride away.

My main host in Tianjin for the week is Professor Xian-He Bu at Nankai Univeristy, and I was met at Tianjin station by two senior members of his research group, Drs Tong-Liang Hu and Yong-Fei Zeng . It was at this stage that I got my first experience of Tianjin traffic – an exhilarating mix of aggressively driven cars, scooters and bikes taking seemingly random routes through the wide but congested streets. All this was accompanied by the constant cacophony of car horns. We somewhat miraculously made it to the University without any accidents and I was able to check into my rooms for the week.

After unpacking I set off to the Chemistry Department to meet Professor Bu for the first time. Professor Bu is renowned expert in the area of magnetic materials and Metal Organic Frameworks (or MOFs for short). This is an area in which we ourselves have recently published several articles, so I hope we may be able to initiate some kind of collaboration. He and his group were extremely welcoming and I was given a tour of his well-equipped labs, with the occasional stop for photo-opportunities. Several of us then left the campus for dinner in one of Tianjin’s best restaurants. This was a great experience as not only was the Chinese food delicious, but it also allowed us to get to know each other a bit more informally. Luckily I am familiar with chopsticks and am quite adventurous in my eating which I think helped too! I am now back in my rooms and looking forward to a much needed early night to catch up on sleep and recover from the jet-lag.



Posted by Rob Davies on Oct 25, 2010 4:04 PM BST

Tuesday started with a walking tour of the main campus of Nankai University. This took several hours since the place is much larger than I expected. The university is home to approximately twenty thousand students and the campus is over 1km in length, containing no less than eight separate chemistry buildings spread throughout its length.

I was glad at the end of the tour to escape from the heat and humidity, and return to the main Chemistry Department where I was to give a lecture on some of our recent work on MOF materials with silicon-based connectors. My talk seemed to be well received and there were many questions, particularly from the postgraduate and undergraduate students who all seemed enthusiastic and keen to try their English language skills on me. After talking shop for a while, we then left for lunch at one of the University restaurants where I was again spoilt by the quality and quantity of the food.

Apparently it is common in China for people to go home after lunch for a short nap or siesta. Since I wanted to experience as much of the culture as possible, I also returned to my rooms for an hour’s rest! Two students came to pick me up later and we took a Taxi to central Tianjin for some sightseeing. The city itself is one of the five largest cities in China with a population of over 13 million, and although most of the city is very new and not really on the tourist trail, there are several interesting historic sites and shopping areas and a number of large parks and lakes to stroll around. In the evening we met up with Professor Bu again for dinner at a famous dumpling restaurant (a local specialty). Despite my best efforts to resist I was plied with far too much Chinese ‘white wine’ (actually a 40% spirit!) over dinner, but at least I will sleep well tonight.

Posted by Rob Davies on Oct 25, 2010 10:49 AM BST
I am currently sitting and waiting with my luggage in a very over-crowded coffee shop at Heathrow airport. I am supposed to be on my way to China as part of a new joint initiative between the Royal Society of Chemistry and the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) in China. The plan is to visit several universities around the city of Tianjin in order to enhance bilateral cooperation between the UK and China, and to build new research collaborations. It will be my first time in China and I am feeling excited but also a bit nervous about what to expect. However, my trip has got off to a rather inauspicious start as my airline have overbooked my flight to Beijing and I have been asked to wait around until the flight has closed before they decide whether they can fit me onboard or not!
Posted by Rob Davies on Oct 25, 2010 10:45 AM BST
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