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Report from Jiangsu

Sandra Barudio, a chemist from the University of Freiburg, is currently doing four months’ practical training in the company GenePharma based in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China. Barudio arrived in China at the beginning of September 2010, funded by a “China grant” from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts. She is a doctoral student in her second year at the Institute of Chemistry at Freiburg University and is doing her doctoral thesis on nucleotide chemistry. GenePharma is a leader in the production of siRNA for research purposes and sells its products around the world.

The questions were asked by Professor Dr. Rolf Schmid, coordinator and consultant to the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts focusing on bilateral cooperation in the life sciences.

1. What made you decide to accept our grant and go to China?

I was particularly attracted by the fact that the grant programme was specifically oriented towards projects in China and this was my main motivation for participating in the programme. This research stay is an excellent opportunity to get to know a country's customs and culture well, it is also an opportunity to contribute to improving the mutual understanding between the Chinese and German cultures. I also felt that the programme challenged me both as a scientist and as an individual and that it would help me broaden my horizon.

2. You've been working at GenePharma for three months now - what are your professional experiences so far?

At GenePharma I was given the opportunity to work with Chinese scientists from a broad range of different disciplines in a very pleasant atmosphere. Some of my Chinese colleagues have also previously spent some time abroad and have offered me a great deal of support. They clearly respect my choice to spend some time in a completely unknown country with a completely different culture. Communicating with each other has not been a great problem.

Sandra Barudio (centre) talking with two of her Chinese colleagues in the GenePharma library. © Rolf Schmid

The laboratories are equipped more or less according to Western standards. However, it was not easy for me to identify the chemicals I needed nor to operate the devices. I have very much depended on help from my Chinese colleagues, in particular during the first weeks of my stay here in China. Something that is quite different to what I had been used to is the much stricter personnel hierarchy and the very precisely defined responsibilities and areas of responsibility which need to be strictly followed. However, in general the workflow in the laboratory is very similar to the German system. For example, we meet at regular intervals to discuss results and progress in small groups.

3. What is life in Suzhou like? 

Suzhou has many, many canals and is a beautiful city where both the historical and the modern face of China are present. Suzhou is known around the world for its many temples, pagodas and gardens, which give visitors a comprehensive insight into the city's history and the country's traditions. The city also has a lot to offer in terms of food. Thanks to tourism, there are restaurants that serve international cuisine, as well as restaurants with dishes from other Chinese provinces. Because of its close vicinity to Shanghai, Nanjing and the Tai Lake, this region has a great deal to offer in terms of leisure activities.

BioBay area in Suzhou, which is part of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park © BioBay

The city's eastern district is home to a huge industrial area, the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) with companies from nearly all the industrial sectors. BioBay, where Suzhou GenePharma Co. is located, is part of the SIP. The SIP is so well integrated into the city that the transition from city to "industrial estate" is barely noticeable. The large number of international companies, schools and university institutes means that many foreigners live here and so one has the opportunity to exchange experiences and discoveries.

4. Would you recommend an internship in China? 

Yes, definitely, because an internship is an excellent opportunity for getting to know China and Chinese culture. Practical training also makes it possible to discover a new field of research for ones own work. Of course, you need a certain amount of courage and a certain spirit of adventure since the lifestyle in China is completely different to what we are used to here in Germany. But my stay here so far has been an outstanding experience that I would not have missed for anything in the world. It's been full of many exciting impressions, experiences and friendships.

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/report-from-jiangsu