In my mind, the Great Wall of China is an unprecedented feat of engineering that symbolizes an epic transformation - a structure that once was meant to keep people out, now welcomes millions into the country. In many ways, our knowledge of Rheology and our outlook on China went through a transformation of a similar scale over the course of the 2019 SCPKU rheology seminar.
The rheology seminar offered by Prof. Gerry Fuller, started in mid-July with 15 students from diverse backgrounds – eight from Stanford and seven from the Chinese universities of Peking, Tsingua and Beihang. Together, over the course of eight lectures, we learned the fundamentals of rheology and its indispensable applications. The ones that excited us include predicting the stability of therapeutic solutions, designing materials for 3D printing and stabilizing/destabilizing foams and emulsions. The lectures were accompanied by two field trips that complemented the lecture content. The first one took us to a research lab in Beihang university where we got to observe advanced rheometric tools used to measure properties of soft living matter. The second one took us to the upstream and downstream divisions of the CNPC – one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world. There we learned about industry-grade high-throughput machinery used for enhanced oil recovery and processing. To top it off, the last two days of class were devoted to individual research presentations from students. This final session gave us a clearer understanding of the diverse research topics pursued by each student and the creative utilization of the material in different specializations. Aside from a good grasp of rheology, the seminar fostered strong professional connections and research collaborations. In particular, I am excited about a research collaboration that has been established between the research groups of Prof. Masao Doi at Beihang university and that of Prof. Gerry Fuller at Stanford.
Along with the professional connections, what made the whole experience truly memorable were the close personal friendships that were formed. Right from day one, every Stanford student was paired with a student from one of the Chinese Universities. What followed were unforgettable experiences – be it a trip within the campus or around the forbidden city – there was never a wasted moment. The icing on the cake was undoubtedly the last day of class. After an exuberant dinner at SunLiTun, we all took off for an essential KTV party. We celebrated through the night, singing a mix of Chinese, Spanish and English. (My personal favorite was of course the trip to the Great Wall, and did I mention that all the Stanford students now have Chinese names?)
To sum it up, I would like to highlight the message delivered by the executive director of SCPKU on the first day of class, which I believe also embodies the vision of the SCPKU and its supporters. We need future leaders who can enhance international relationships, embrace diversity and encourage science. What better way to secure this future than to bring eager young minds from leading universities together and encourage them to live, love and learn with each other before they take on global responsibilities.
With amazing programs like these, I am hopeful that any walls that are built in the future, like the Great Wall of China, will be to celebrate science and bring people together.