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West Meets East

In a classic case of "East meets West," Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and Santa Clara University have joined forces as creators of an annual summer program where students can experience a new culture and educational system while visiting diverse industrial settings and expanding their vision of the global workplace.

Faculty and students from Santa Clara and Shanghai Jiao Tong Universities.
Photo: Ha Wen

Last summer, 11 SCU bioengineering students visited China, studying traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with peers from the pharmacy program at SJTU and touring facilities such as a TCM hospital and Agilent Technologies in Shanghai, and chemical engineering facilities in Nanjing. "The students experienced outstanding lectures from leaders in the field of pharmaceutical research," said SCU bioengineering associate professor Zhiwen (Jonathan) Zhang, who helped create the program and accompanied the students on the trip. "At Santa Clara, we teach bioengineering with a clear goal toward its use in therapy or medical treatment; this direct exposure to a pharmacological point of research and therapy was invaluable to our students." Faculty and students from the University of Pittsburgh and Queens University in Belfast, Ireland, also took part in the program that is co-led by SCU and SJTU.

For some, learning about the philosophy and science of using eastern medicine techniques such as TCM, massage, and acupuncture to maintain spiritual balance and prevent illness in a university setting was eye opening. "It was so interesting to learn how technology is being used to make TCM methods more acceptable to the western world. Identification and verification of traditional herbs, plants, and animal parts is key to the proper use of TCM—and to its acceptance by western medicine, so university professors in China are helping to build a comprehensive database. They are also isolating individual compounds and gathering evidential-based results," said Ajay Fernandez '13. "It's powerful to meet and work with colleagues in another country and from another area of science," said Kalpith Ramamoorthi '11.

Following their time at SJTU, the students were invited by Nanjing University to sit in on research seminars, hang out, and do some sightseeing. When the program wrapped up, six Bronco engineers stayed behind to perform research at the university. "The culture and protocols in the lab were a lot different from in the United States. They did everything very precisely and quickly, but having to adapt to a different lab and a new language was a good experience. You will always have to adapt to new things and learn to work around or figure out how to overcome different barriers. One of the best things about this program was being thrown into a new situation. That's an experience every scientist should have," said Cade Ito '14.

Jennifer Batara '13 shared a different perspective: "Engineers in America are not expected to get a lot of outside cultural experience," she said; "we are expected to cultivate our technical skills. A program like this goes along with the Jesuit mission of trying to develop the whole person. Men and women are more than just engineers or businesspeople. This program fits well with our mission, and that's one of the reasons I liked it the most—it embodies what the University wants by advancing our technical abilities while exposing us to new ideas and experiences that help us grow as people."

Dr. Zhang reports that his colleagues from SJTU and Nanjing University were "very impressed with the quality of our students as a whole package—their knowledge, manner and discipline. Our students worked very hard alongside their Chinese peers."

Having had such a great experience in China, the Bronco engineers are eager to return the favor next summer when they host the program in Santa Clara for the International Summer Academy of Bioengineering (ISAB). "Developing these ties so early in our careers is a great way to forge worldwide networks and enhances the reputation of both universities," said Josergio Zaragoza '13.