Meet Your Fellow Newtoner is a British Council original column that introduces to you a fellow Newtoner, and shares with you his or her experiences, thoughts and feelings being a UK-China Newtoner.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Kathryn Maher. I am a PhD student at the Department of Biology and Biochemistry and the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath. My research is focused on the evolution of mating systems and the molecular basis of complex behaviour.
Has it been a worthwhile study tour to China?
I was awarded a scholarship from the British Council in China as part of the Newton Fund PhD Placement Programme for me and my PhD supervisor to visit Beijing Normal University.
Getting to visit and study in China was an amazing opportunity which greatly benefitted my PhD research. During my visit I was able to visit Qinghai Lake, which is an incredibly beautiful place, to collect data for collaborative projects. I also had the opportunity to present an invited talk at Beijing Normal University. This was an amazing opportunity, which allowed me to gain additional experience presenting my research to research peers in China, and receive valuable feedback on my results. I am really pleased that I was able to form long lasting collaborations between myself and our partners at Beijing Normal University, as well as connections with Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. These partnerships will be beneficial to my PhD research as they provide expertise, knowledge, and equipment supplementary to those offered at my own institution.
All of these benefits would not have been possible without the support of the Newton Fund and the links that have been established as part of this.
I would definitely recommend to everyone to apply to spend some time in China during their PhD studies.
What’s it like to study in a Chinese university?
I was struck the community feeling of Beijing Normal University. Most of the staff and students live in accommodation on campus and eat meals together at the university canteens. This is a very different feeling to most UK universities where people tend to live further away. Living close to the department meant that less time is wasted commuting so most people stayed late in the office. Spending so much time working together creates strong friendships and promotes good working relationships.
What are the people like?
Everyone I met was extremely welcoming and friendly. It is a huge change to move to another country to live for several months, especially a place as different to the UK as China. It could easily have been very isolating to live somewhere where you do not speak the language but I never felt lonely. I made some amazing friends who made sure my stay was never boring and who were as interested in learning about how things are in the UK as I was about China.