Teaching in Shanghai 2016

SJTU student leads a discussion at the board.

Summer School at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (July 11-21, 2016)

In recent years, a number of universities in China have been offering their students intensive, English-language and discipline-based short courses during brief 2-4 week summer terms.

I have been collaborating with Nanjing University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University to help identify highly qualified instructors for these courses. This year, the Zhiyuan Honors College at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) offered a pair of such courses during July.

Notably, SJTU offered tuition-free enrollment to U-M students who wished to attend these classes. Moreover, the topical areas (An Introduction to Chemical Biology and Bio-Organic Reaction Mechanisms, and Nano-Materials Chemistry) are precisely the intermediate elective courses that have been challenging for the U-M chemistry department to offer due to enrollment demands in the basic program. A group of six U-M students joined the 26 SJTU students who were registered for these classes.

The Chemical Biology course was team taught by me and a former U-M post-doc, Professor Jean-Paul Desaulniers, who is currently on the faculty at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, while the Nano-Materials course was taught by Professor Thomas Seery from the University of Connecticut.

Old School schooling at SJTU.

UM student Zohaib Siddiqi collaborating with his SJTU counterparts on some chemistry questions.

“Of Blood and Dust (Cover)”

BloodDustCvr7211622x14Of Blood and Dust (Cover)” (2014)
by Val Mayerik (1950 -)
22 x 14 in., oil on panel
Coppola Collection

Val Mayerik was the regular artist for Man-Thing (Marvel Comics) in the 1970s, and co-created Howard the Duck (Marvel Comics… or the after-credits coda from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, for you young’uns) with Steve Gerber. He’s a commercial artist, now, and keen on the American West. He’s drawing an historically accurate portrayal of the Battle of Little Big Horn authored by Jim Berry, which was funded through Kickstarter. It is called “Of Dust and Blood” – look for it.

This oil painting, by Mayerik, is being used as the dust jacket cover image.

“Strawberry Moon”

StrawberryMoonStrawberry Moon” (2016)
by Barbara Kacicek (1957-)
10 × 10 in., oil on linen
Coppola Collection

Part of an ongoing series from Barbara, commemorating the differently labeled moons that exist.

Each month’s full moon has a name and a meaning, dating back to Native Americans. June’s full moon is called the Strawberry Moon because the short season during which strawberries can be harvested happens in June. However, strawberries aren’t native in Europe. There, June’s full moon is called the “Rose Moon.”

June’s full moon is also called a “Honey Moon” or a “Mead Moon” because its position is low in the sky (in our hemisphere at least) and the earth’s atmosphere can give it a warm tint.

The word “honeymoon” refers to marriage’s sweetness, in addition to the European custom of giving newlyweds enough mead to last them a month. But it’s also interesting that June is the most popular month to get married and, as a result, many couples take their honeymoons during the month of the “Honey Moon.”

“Silvery Moon”

SilveryMoonSilvery Moon” (2016)
by Barbara Kacicek (1957-)
10 × 10 in., oil on linen
Coppola Collection

Part of an ongoing series from Barbara, commemorating the differently labeled moons that exist.

The reflected light of the moon glows with the same luminance as the metal silver, and in the ancient world, there were no coincidences. So, silver and the moon have been linked for a long time. The alchemical symbol for silver is a crescent moon, and the moon, and silver, were associated with the brain.

In the Middle Ages, one might describe a lunatic as a person who is acting under the influence of luna, the Latin word for “moon.” The notion that the moon causes certain kinds of madness or evokes dangerous aspects of our personalities has been around for millennia; Aristotle suggested that the moon could cause insanity by manipulating fluids in the brain, much in the same way it commands the tides.

The symbolic moon facts can be found in alchemical teachings wherein the moon is a facet of silver. In the ever-parabolic perspective of the practicing alchemist, we know silver is symbolic of clarity, purity, and brilliance.

“By The Light of the Silvery Moon” or “By the Light of the Silv’ry Moon” is a popular song. The music was written by Gus Edwards, and the lyrics by Edward Madden. The song was published in 1909 and first performed on stage by Lillian Lorraine.



Nanjing Tournament 2016

Sheffield student Amy Smith (l) and Michigan student Mike Payne (c) work on the inorganic chemistry challenge under the watchful gaze of an evaluator.

10th Biennial National Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory Tournament (July 6-10, 2016)

“We need to do everything we can to promote excellence in experimental chemistry because only through doing the best science can we solve some of the world’s most vexing problems,” says Peking University Professor Lianyun Duan, one of the original architects of China’s National Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory Tournament, which not only celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, but also hosted two teams of foreign student participants for the first time.

Held at the new Xianlin campus of Nanjing University from July 6-10, 2016, the competition drew teams of three students, all rising seniors, from 43 campuses all over China, as well as over 200 faculty members who held a concurrent conference to share ideas about laboratory teaching. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the University of Sheffield, UK, were invited to send teams of students who participated fully as honorary guests, but who were not included in the final ranking.

Professor Chengjian “CJ” Zhu, from Nanjing University, was one of the chief organizers of the 2016 competition. “The design of this tournament sends a powerful message about fairness, the true spirit of competition, “ says Zhu, “and getting at the underlying question of how Chinese universities are doing in the laboratory education of their students. Another intent we have for this tournament is to continue to encourage our best students to pursue their scientific career interests. ”

When I heard about the design of this tournament from CJ, a few years ago, I knew I just had to be there to see this in action. He graciously invited me to keynote the opening, and was the driver behind inviting the two teams of foreign students.

The tournament’s design is noteworthy and not something we would likely see being used in the United States. The teams are selected at random, from a large list of candidates sent in by each school, and the laboratory assignments on which they are tested are also assigned at random (and only 30 minutes before the actual competition). Students are kept anonimous throughout the competition so that bias about the school of origin is eliminated.

The foreign students had an appropriately eye-opening experience.
Chengjian “CJ” Zhu and me, standing in the central control room of the Nanjing University teaching laboratories.

“Mons Calpe”

MonsCalpeMons Calpe” (2014)
by Barbara Kacicek (1957-)
9×12 in., oil on panel
Coppola Collection

The Rock of Gibraltar was one of the Pillars of Hercules and was known to the Romans as Mons Calpe, the other pillar being Mons Abyla on the African side of the Strait. In ancient times, the two points marked the limit to the known world, a myth originally fostered by the Greeks and the Phoenicians.

The overall silhouette of this composition reminded me of the tradition view of the Rock of Gibraltar, and I got to name the piece. There is some humor in the Gibraltar shape merely being paper, here, that is nonetheless held down by a rock. Well, I thought it was funny.