On December 4, 2017, Rutgers Global welcomed 16 graduate students from Jilin University in China for a five-day Rutgers-Jilin Graduate Research Forum, a biannual event facilitated by Rutgers Global–China Office that pairs Jilin and Rutgers graduate students for presentations and exchanges on innovative graduate research.
“Rutgers and Jilin University have a 40-year partnership,” said Jeff Wang, assistant vice president for global affairs. “This forum reaffirms our collaborative commitment to research innovation and academic opportunities by giving our up-and-coming generation of scholars and innovators a platform to present their ideas and discuss them face-to-face in an open environment. We have held this event since 2015 twice per year—at Jilin in the summer months and at Rutgers in the winter months—and look forward to continuing to do so.”
Dong Mo, a program officer at Jilin University, said the 16 Jilin students attending the forum were students from different departments at the top of their fields; to participate in the research forum, they must have received a very competitive scholarship by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
“Chinese students need to go abroad to study to gain more knowledge of the world outside of China. This goes especially for graduate students—it’s very important for them to have academic exchange and know what others are researching and doing. This event provides a good opportunity for them to do that at Rutgers,” she said.
Jilin and Rutgers students met with Karen Stubaus, executive vice chancellor for administration, and Debu Banerjee, pharmacology professor and assistant dean for global initiatives at the School of Graduate Studies, to talk about the importance of international collaboration and innovation.
Ma Hong, a Jilin graduate student in journalism and communications, said the forum gave him a chance to present on his research on the cultural effects stemming from the excavation of landmarks in China—and to experience a new country and dispel some of the misconceptions he had about American culture, particularly through field trips to New York City and Philadelphia on the last two days of the forum.
“I’m getting a chance to see the United States through my own eyes. My only information on the United States was from the media or from movies I’ve seen,” Hong said. “For instance, I always saw these really tall buildings in the movies, but it’s not like that here. I also love professional basketball, and I want to watch a basketball game while I’m here.”
While Hong experienced the United States for the first time, Liu Xuanting focused on immersing herself in the culture at Rutgers. The food science graduate student will return to Rutgers in fall 2018 as a graduate student of non-thermal food processing technologies, thanks to Jilin University’s joint Ph.D. agreement with Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
“I like American culture, especially the music,” she said. “People are warm-hearted here, and I met some Rutgers students with whom I exchanged ideas. Rutgers is a very beautiful university, very big, with so many impressive labs.”
Rutgers student Sam Kogan, an M.D./Ph.D. graduate student focusing on cancer pharmacological and developing new therapeutics for cancer patients, said the forum gave him an opportunity to learn about cancer treatment research that blends tradition and science.
“I saw a presentation on developing methods to identify potential therapeutic compounds through Chinese medicinal plants, and they’re doing some high-tech analyses on that—I thought that was very interesting,” Kogan said.
Kogan said he felt there were benefits to international student research forums.
“They allow the free flow of thoughts between students, and we can form our own perspectives through these experiences with one another, which may affect how one conducts research moving forward,” he said.
This communication was key for Jilin ophthalmology graduate student Gong Qiaoyun, who presented on slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of onset blindness among working age adults around the world. She said she was able to talk about some future research when asked by Rutgers students about her presentation, and learn more about different approaches to classroom communications she first saw as an undergraduate studying abroad at Emory University.
“The culture between Jilin and here is a bit different. So, I think it’s free here to express your opinion and you can ask any questions when you’re feeling confused. However, in China, you ask teachers after the class, not during the class.”
She also said the cultural diversity of Rutgers enhanced the communications.
“At Jilin, we have a few international students, but mostly from other nearby Asian countries. At Rutgers, there are international students from many different countries across the world. This is a great opportunity for students from Jilin to express our thoughts with confidence in English—we have few chances to do this at home,” she said.
One area where Qiaoyun thinks the program could grow?
“I wish it would last longer so I could get to do everything—touring labs, seeing facilities,” she said. “One week is not enough!”