For ten days over the summer, Clare Hall welcomed twenty of the top-performing PhD students from Zhejiang University, one of the top five universities in China. The students joined a highly experimental and ambitious new programme - a tour of research facilities across almost the whole University from pure Physics to the most visual of all the Arts and Humanities. The programme was made possible by Clare Hall's highly interdisciplinary Fellowship and Postdoctoral community which includes leaders from nearly all the University disciplines. Many of our colleagues opened their departments and laboratories to our Zhejiang guests and talked about their research in real depth.
Programme attendees met the former Cavendish Professor, the Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy Emeritus. They toured the Cavendish Laboratory before proceeding to astronomy via the BP Institute for Multiphase Fluid Flow and the world of fluid mechanics in oil, gas, magma and air.
They spent a day at the British Antarctic Survey with polar explorers and climate scientists from the Institute for Atmospheric Science followed by a visit to the Scott Polar Research Institute, before plunging into the thorny problems of national, regional and city master planning, hearing about very sophisticated regional and transportation modelling at the Martin Centre.
In Engineering, we attended the International Conference on Sustainable Built Environments (SuDBE), originating in Chongqing and Hangzhou and met the Dyson Professor and his laboratory colleagues. The group visited Photonics in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and learnt some computational biology at Computing Sciences before becoming immersed in the highly complex and controversial field of conservation.
They learnt about the recovery of deteriorating historic industrial and urban landscapes and the conservation of historic wallpapers from the Architectural History team and then travelled to Whittlesford to meet the Director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute to observe the conservation of Old Master easel paintings, as much Chemistry as History of Art. They viewed Canalettos, Guardis, a Van Dyke, a Van der Heyden, mediaeval portraits on wooden panels and many more treasures. The attendees also made multiple trips to the Fitzwilliam Museum.
The ten-day event was designed to break out of individual research disciplines and get a taste of the immensely complex world of research. Zhejiang University has plans to come again next summer and will be launching a competition for the twenty available places soon.