Welcome to Ion [Eye On] Shanghai 2014!

Ion Shanghai details the authentic experiences of two undergraduate students living and conducting research at Fudan University over the summer. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog reflect those of the students, and are not intended to represent those of the University of Connecticut as a whole. Please enjoy!

Last Week in China

July 10, 2014

During our last week in China, we went on a day trip to a nearby city called Suzhou in Jiangsu Province. It was about a twenty minute ride by fast train from Shanghai. We visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Tiger Hill.

Humble Administrator’s Garden and Tiger Hill in Suzhou
Humble Administrator’s Garden and Tiger Hill in Suzhou

One of our last dinners together was at a restaurant called Yeli Xiali located in Wujiaochang. The restaurant served cuisine from Xinjiang Province, which tasted very similar to Turkish cuisine.

group photo at dinner
from left to right: Chen Lan, Huai Kun, Tania Mohamed, Guo Rong, Xin Pengyang, and Stuart Mehrens

cuisine from Xinjiang Province

Before we left, we presented the gifts from the UConn Chemistry Department to the graduate students and professors. They were very appreciative and also gifted Stuart and me with souvenirs from Fudan University.

I would like to thank Professor Li and Professor Zhang for allowing us to work in their lab, and all the graduate students who helped us during our stay. I especially want to thank Chen Lan, Huai Kun, and Guo Rong, who spent the majority of their time with us. Lastly, I would like to thank the UConn Chemistry Department for giving us this opportunity to go to Fudan University.

group photo with UConn Chemistry shirts
from left to right: Guo Rong, Chen Lan, and Huai Kun

group photos with Tania and Stuart

Trip to Beijing

July 5, 2014

From June 13-17th, Chen Lan, Huai Kun, and the rest of the graduate students had to grade the college entrance exams. Since we wouldn’t be doing any experiments during this time, Professor Li allowed Stuart and me to travel around China for the week. Stuart visited his friend in Changsha, while I went to Beijing with my friends.

For anyone who plans to visit China and does not speak Chinese, I highly recommend TravelChinaGuide.com. I booked my high-speed train ticket and hotel on this website. The train departed from Hongqiao Railway Station, which was about an hour away from the campus via subway. It went directly to Beijing South Railway Station, which took about 5 hours.

The hotel where we stayed was called Days Inn Forbidden City. The staff spoke English and provided us with information about the attractions we wanted to visit. The location of the hotel was great because it was a 10 minute walk from the Tiananmen East Subway Station. It was also very near to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

Something that I recommend doing is to plan out which attractions you want to visit, and then refer to TravelChinaGuide.com for more information. We only had 3 full days to explore, so we planned each day according to how far the places were from our hotel. We went to Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven on the first day, Summer’s Palace and Tiananmen Square on the second day, and The Great Wall on the third day. The website has information on how to get to these places, the price of the entrance fees, and the recommended time that you should spend at each.

Most of the places are accessible by subway, except for The Great Wall, where you have to take a bus. The subway system in Beijing was excellent. I used the app Explore Metro, which is available for Androids and iPhones. If you know which station you want to go to, it will tell you where you need to transfer subway and the estimated time for the trip.

scenic views of Beijing
left: the view from one of the watch towers at the Mutianyu Great Wall
top right: the view from the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense at Summer’s Palace.
bottom right: one of the beautiful structures at Summer’s Palace

Group Traditions

June 25, 2014

In Professor Li’s group, whenever someone graduates, the person will treat the whole group to a nice dinner. Yu Junlai graduated with his master’s degree last week, so we went out to eat at a nearby restaurant. Before the dinner, we also watched The Edge of Tomorrow, featuring Tom Cruise.

Another group tradition is that when one of the students publishes a paper, he or she will treat a few friends to dinner. Chen Lan recently published a paper in Tetrahedron, so eight of us went to a local restaurant to celebrate his accomplishment.

Chen Lan’s Dinner
Chen Lan’s dinner – from left to right: Chen Lan, Guo Rong, and Stuart Mehrens

Lunch with Professor Seery

June 20, 2014

In this post, I want to talk about the differences between American and Chinese culture. When Professor Seery came to Fudan, we met up with him for lunch. He wanted to take us to a soup dumpling restaurant. When we arrived, Professor Seery told Chen Lan and Huai Kun to order a lot of dumplings. In my experience, when a person says to “order a lot,” it implies that he or she will pay for it. In fact, that was what Professor Seery intended to do, but Huai Kun didn’t know and ended up paying. He told me later that typically in China, the person who orders is the one who will pay.

48 dumplings were ordered for 6 people, which was clearly not enough food for all of us, especially since we didn’t eat breakfast. Chen Lan kept asking if we wanted to order more, but everyone said that it was enough. So, we left the restaurant having only eaten 8 small dumplings each.

When we got back to the lab, Stuart expressed how hungry he was. Only then did everyone else confess that they were also hungry. We had a good laugh about it afterwards because the Chinese and American culture clashed in this situation. Chen Lan explained to us how confused he was that no one wanted to order more because he also thought that it was not enough food. Chinese people would usually encourage their guests to eat more, but they thought that it would rude to do it to foreigners, so they didn’t say anything. Also, they figured that if we were still hungry, we would speak up. We Americans did not want to keep everyone else waiting if we were the only ones eating, so we didn’t say anything either. We learned from this experience to be straightforward with Chinese people. In fact, they get very happy when you eat a lot.

group sitting around table after eating dumplings
after eating dumplings
from left to right: Huai Kun, Louis Shi, Stuart Mehrens, Tania Mohamed, Professor Thomas Seery, and Chen Lan

International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry

June 15, 2014

From June 7-11th, Stuart and I volunteered at the 9th International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry (ISMSC), which was held at Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC). The ISMSC started as two separate meetings: the International Symposium on Macrocyclic Chemistry (ISMC) and the International Symposium on Supramolecular Chemistry (ISSC). The ISMC was founded in 1977 by Reed M. Izatt and James J. Christensen, and the ISSC meetings began soon after in 1980. The two meetings joined together in 2006.

This event was organized by faculty from SIOC, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Fudan University, with Professor Zhan-Ting Li (our research advisor) as the chief organizer. The conference covered areas in macrocyclic and supramolecular chemistry, along with materials and nano sciences. Some notable speakers included Dr. Kimoon Kim, Dr. Julius Rebek, Dr. Jeremy Sanders, and Dr. James Fraser Stoddart.

Professor James Fraser Stoddart gives a talk on Extended Metal-Carbohydrate Frameworks
Professor James Fraser Stoddart gives a talk on Extended Metal-Carbohydrate Frameworks

Two poster sessions were held on the first and third day of the conference. A panel of judges presented the RSC poster awards to five students.

various images from the poster session
top: professors and students at the second poster session.
bottom left: Pengyang Xin (Fudan) poses in front of his poster, which is about Hydrogen Bonded Helical Hydrazide Oligomers.
bottom right: Liang Zhang (Fudan) talks about his poster on Theoretical Studies on Folded Conformation of Triazole Oligomers.

As volunteers, our tasks included registering all the conference participants, preparing the food and drinks for coffee breaks, collecting meal tickets during lunch, and helping professors set up their computers before their presentations. Volunteers were also needed to assist a tour guide during the one-day excursion to Zhujiajiao, which is an ancient water town. Luckily for Stuart and I, this gave us the opportunity to visit this historic town for the first time.

volunteers at the poster session
top: student volunteers pose with Professor Zhan-Ting Li and Professor Junli Hou.
bottom left: volunteers prepare the drinks and snacks for the second poster session.
bottom middle & right: volunteers register the participants.

Life at Fudan University

June 10, 2014

Stuart and I have been at Fudan University for over three weeks now, and campus life is great. We are staying at the residence hall for international students. It is equipped with air conditioning and cable television (TV included). As for food, we usually grab a light breakfast from Food Mart, and for lunch and dinner, we alternate between the two canteens located on campus. Occasionally, we have dinner at the local restaurants just outside the campus (our favorite place is Hot Pot). The best way to get around is by bicycle, but we have yet to purchase one.

research lab
panoramic view of the research lab

We are really enjoying working in the research lab. Our research group has twenty graduate students, four undergraduates, and three professors. The professors are Dr. Li Zhan-Ting, Dr. Zhang Danwei, and Dr. Wang Hui. The research group meets once a week on Thursday evenings. Each group member gives a presentation every two weeks on their ongoing research. Stuart and I will begin presenting soon.

Chen Lan and Huai Kun
pictured above: Chen Lan (left) and Huai Kun (right)

I work with a graduate student named Chen Lan, and Stuart works alongside Wang Wei Kun, also known as Huai Kun (Bad Kun). Chen Lan is a second-year graduate student. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) in Shanghai. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in organic chemistry, and his research focuses on charge transfer induced foldamer polymers. After he graduates, he hopes to work as a professor at Fudan University and become a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. During his free time, he enjoys playing tennis and a computer game called Defense of the Ancients (DOTA). Huai Kun is also a second-year Ph.D. candidate. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Guangxi University. His research involves molecular machines. After he graduates, he hopes to work as a professor at Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC). Similar to Chen Lan (and the rest of the group members), he enjoys playing a computer game called League of Legends (LOL).

Lecture by Professor Peter Stang
Professor Peter Stang gives a talk to students and professors from Fudan and SIOC

A few days ago, Professor Peter Stang, editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, visited Shanghai and gave a talk at SIOC. There is a bus that transports Fudan students to SIOC free of charge, but this time, we decided to take the taxi.

Bund and Yu Garden
various pictures of our day trips to the Bund and Yu Garden

On the weekends, Chen Lan and Huai Kun showed us different tourist attractions around the city. There is a shopping mall about a 15-minute walk from campus. It is also convenient that Walmart and the subway station are located in that area. So far we were able to visit Nanjing Road, the Bund, and Yuyuan Garden via the subway. The subway system is quite easy to navigate because the maps are marked clearly and the signs are in English.

A Universitas 21 Partnership

June 5, 2014

Since 2012, the Chemistry Department at the University of Connecticut (UConn) has been actively developing international collaborations with other Universitas 21 institutions (the leading global network of research universities), such as Fudan University and Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU) in China. The partnership has provided great channels for the exchange of students, scholars, and educational resources.

Joint research workshops were held in Shanghai in 2012 and in Connecticut in 2013. Ten undergraduates from Fudan University and SJTU have since conducted summer research at UConn. This summer, six more students are on their way to our campus, and we will visit them in Shanghai as well! Professor Michael Smith, Thomas Seery, and Yao Lin will give short courses at Fudan University and SJTU in July, and we (undergraduate students Tania Mohamed and Stuart Mehrens) will carry out organic chemistry research at Fudan University. Here, we will detail our experiences inside and outside the lab!