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Campus collaborates with Chinese university to foster group research

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SEPTEMBER 08, 2014

UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering and a Chinese university are leading efforts in a partnership that will allow students and faculty from both institutions to collaborate on research in several emerging fields.

UC Berkeley has collaborated with the graduate engineering school of Tsinghua University located in Shenzhen, China, to establish the Tsinghua-UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute. The two universities established a partnership in 2012 and have now decided to establish an institute centered on three areas: nanotechnology and nanomedicine, low-carbon and new-energy technologies, as well as data science and next-generation Internet.

The institute will allow groups of professors and graduate students within these disciplines from both universities to collaborate on one another’s research. Campus graduate students will also have the opportunity to study at Tsinhua University, and vice versa, for up to a year.

Connie Chang-Hasnain, the associate dean for strategic alliances at the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, came up with the idea for the institute during her sabbatical at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She said the partnership will emphasize collaboration with industries and was established to address “challenging global problems that will be of interest to a larger group of people.”

“We want to tackle massively cross-disciplinary problems,” Chang-Hasnain said.

Karen Rhodes, a spokesperson for the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, said the three research fields in the institute were chosen because both universities have “deep research strengths” in these areas, and the disciplines are “quite relevant to the future of our global economy.”

Ties between the two institutions were originally fostered in 2009, when the college of engineering and Tsinghua University’s Beijing campus established a joint Global Technology Entrepreneurship Center, Rhodes said.

According to Chang-Hasnain, while the program in Beijing has study abroad opportunities and allows professors to share research, the new partnership will focus more on group research and less on individual connections. Although the institute will not have a physical location on either campuses, industries will be able to present their problems to researchers in the program to find solutions.

Several industry CEOs in China have pledged funds to the partnership, said S. Shankar Sastry, the dean of the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. He said the projected cost of the institute has not yet been determined.

The partnership was modeled after the Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore Limited, an existing collaboration in sustainable building and energy research between UC Berkeley and two universities in Singapore.

The Tsinghua-UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute is not unique at UC Berkeley. According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, “Berkeley has over 100 signed agreements with international institutions of higher learning, under which hundreds of Berkeley faculty and graduate students participate in collaborative research and academic programming.”

Indrasen Bhattacharya, a UC Berkeley graduate student studying nanotechnology and nanomedicine, worked with a graduate student in his research group who was on exchange from Tsingha University for almost three years.
“I think it will bring a different way of thinking and doing research,” Bhattacharya said. “(It) will expose students to different concepts from that region in China.”

The program will launch at the end of this year, according to a press release. Sastry said the institute will be expanded in the future to include other fields.

Corrections: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misspelled Tsinghua University.
Contact Sophie Mattson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MattsonSophie.

SEPTEMBER 09, 2014