From November 9th to 20th, a delegation of ten top undergraduates from the College of Chemistry (CoC) and four faculty traveled to the United States of American to visit three universities, specifically the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Columbia University. At the University of Pennsylvania, our undergraduate students attended undergraduate and graduate classes with local students and communicated with the professors about their thoughts and plans for future research. The delegation was led by Sichuan University CoC professor Dr. Jason J. Chruma. The other mission of this visit was to explore possibilities to establish research collaborations and student exchange programs with faculty and administrators from the above three universities.
On the morning of November 9, the delegation finally arrived at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and received a warm welcome from the Chemistry Department. Professor Patrick Walsh, who was a participating professor in the 2015 University Immersion Program (UIP) at Sichuan University, gave a brief introduction to the department and the city of Philadelphia. Next, Professor Baumgart, the chair of the graduate recruiting committee, introduced our students to the PhD program at UPenn. Professor Baumgart provided detailed information about their PhD program including applicants’ eligibility, specific research fields and funding resources. Moreover, he encouraged the visiting undergraduate students to apply to UPenn for graduate school. After the presentations, a PhD student from the Department of Chemistry guided the delegation on a tour of several research facilities in the department (nuclear magnetic resonance/NMR, X-ray diffraction and mass spectrometry/MS). The facility directors gave the students comprehensive descriptions about the use and functions of different equipment. Our students showed a strong interest in the plentiful NMR facilities at UPenn. They were specifically intrigued that all Chemistry students at UPenn, after brief training, are allowed to operate the NMR equipment themselves. Our student understood how this could highly improve the efficiency of some lab work. Another facility that really impressed our students was one relatively unique to the University of Pennsylvania: The UPenn Department of Chemistry High Throughput Screening Center (HTE Center). This very modern facility allows anyone at UPenn to rapidly screen all reaction conditions and analyze product mixtures using only nanomolar amounts of material, thus greatly increasing the speed that researchers can discover and optimize new chemical transformations. In the following four days at UPenn, the students joined in their chemistry classes and observed how experiments are conducted at this top-ten program. Also, the faculty had encouraging talks with Professor Larry Gladney (Associate Dean for the Natural Sciences) and Professor Gary Molander (Chemistry Department Chair) concerning sending seniors from SCU to conduct research in their labs for a period of six to twelve months. As Dean Gladney suggested, it would be easier and more effective to establish the above mentioned cooperations between the interested research groups of two universities instead of waiting to establish formal agreements between the two universities.
After their visit to UPenn, on November 13th the delegation paid a visit to another influential university in Philadelphia: Temple University. Professor William Wuest from the Department of Chemistry hosted a meeting for the group. Professor Daniel Strongin (Department Chair) welcomed the delegation by delivering an overview presentation of the department and their graduate program; he particularly emphasized their strength in Physical and Computational Chemistry. Following this initial presentation, Professor Wuest’s overview about the PhD program at Temple Chemistry attracted a lot of interest from the students. The Temple faculty were impressed by the academic performance & potential of our undergraduate students and they strongly encouraged our students to apply to their program. Professor Hai-Lung Dai, Provost of Temple University, also attended the meeting and introduced Temple University to the delegation. He indicated that Temple University has invested heavily in improving scientific research & facilities. Additionally, Provost Dai has been instrumental in Temple’s active search for international cooperation with other universities. By referring to his own experience at high school and universities, Professor Dai also offered sensible suggestions for the students. In the afternoon, the staff from SCU had a fruitful meeting with Mrs. Rose McGinnis (Office of Student Services, Director of Student Professional Development and Undergraduate Research Program). After having listened to the description of the UIP at SCU, Mrs. McGinnis mentioned that she is very interested in sending Temple students to SCU for this program and some small research projects at CoC this summer. She also will pass the information about the UIP to Temple undergraduate students from different departments.
Before leaving Philadelphia for New York City, the delegation took some time to visit some historic sites, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. On their way to Columbia University in New York, the delegation dropped by Princeton University. They were immersed in the tranquil campus and artistic architecture.
On November 17, the delegation visited the Chemistry Department of Columbia University and received warm welcome from Professor Ronald Breslow (member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and former President of the American Chemical Society). Professor Breslow presented our delegation with research highlights from his group and he asked the research interests of each student. Moreover, he came up with personalized suggestions for the students and invited some of his PhD students in to communicate with them. After that, Professor Tristan Lambert, who is in charge of PhD admissions for the Chemistry Department, introduced the requirements for and the advantages of doing a PhD at Columbia University. Prof. Breslow then took the whole delegation to lunch and provided a brief tour of the research facilities at Columbia. In the afternoon, representative faculty from the Chemistry Department gave presentations of their research fields and answered questions from our students. Professor Chruma also had talks with them to explore research cooperation.
After having visited the three universities, the delegation safely returned to Chengdu on November 20. This visit to these American universities provided our top students with a marvelous opportunity to experience the teaching, research and culture in the U.S. It also gave our students helpful guidance for their future study and research. Additionally, the College of Chemistry used this visit to successfully strengthen the ties with U.S universities, establishing a good foundation for future cooperation in research and student exchange programs.