Wowee the summer’s going by fast! I can hardly believe it’s already almost August and I’ve only got one week left in my three-month research placement in Hangzhou! My summer in China has been one of a kind.
Before arriving in China, I had no idea what to even expect. All I knew about China were the stories I had heard of sardine-packed city streets and the abundance of exotic meat dishes. As someone who grew up “Dead”monton and a vegetarian, I was a little nervous. However, after arriving in China I found I had nothing to worry about and settled into life here easily. At the train station I was greeted with chocolate oreos and a friendly smile from Liang, my PhD advisor, who brought me to my dorm, showed me around the beautiful campus and introduced me to the lab group.
In the lab, I am assisting Liang with his PhD project focussed on polymer research. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we do: First, we purify the various monomers, comonomers, and initiators. Then we perform the polymerization reactions. After analyzing and characterizing the branched polymers we cleave them and again characterize the product. The goal is to find an effective way of determining the primary chain number and cross-linking density of branched polymers.
One of the best things about my experience in China has most definitely been the people I’ve met. Since my arrival everyone has been extremely friendly and accommodating. I have really enjoyed getting to know the students in my lab group during our daily group lunches, and occasional celebratory dinner parties. I now have many great memories of climbing the nearby mountain, going to the movies, playing pool and bargaining at silk street with them. I even had the opportunity to go travelling with the group to the Jian Shan mountain and area. After returning to Canada I will have to keep in touch through my new QQ account! (Imagine bbm, skype and dropbox all together in one sweet package)
I also got to know the other Western students in Hangzhou a lot better this summer. We've had a great time hanging out in Hangzhou and exploring China. We were able to make weekend trips both to Shanghai and Beijing. In Beijing, we saw many of China’s most famous monuments like the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Buildings. Robbie and I even travelled a few hours northeast of Beijing and stayed a night in the small village of Gubeikou. There, we woke up early in the morning and hiked the Great Wall of China. Last weekend, I was able to travel to Huang Shan with another Canadian student I met working in the lab. After climbing the mountain, we camped out on the peak and watched both the sunset and the sunrise from the mountain.
The Great Wall of China
All in all, my experience in China has been very rewarding. I have forged many new friendships, discovered a new country and culture, and gained a greater understanding of chemical engineering research. I’ve had a great time in Hangzhou and now I’m looking forward to exploring Taiwan and Hong Kong starting next week before heading back to home sweet home Canada!