Six CSB/SJU students conduct science research at Southwest University in China

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July 31, 2018

By Mike Killeen

Students in China

From left: Michael Kelly, Jack Matuska, Amber Rudenick, Gabe Johnson, Elise Miller, Kristine Vang

Here’s today’s Jeopardy answer:

In November 2005, a partnership was updated sending College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University science students to China to study at a large metropolitan university each summer, with Chinese science students coming to CSB and SJU to study each summer.

The question: What is the China Summer Science Research Program?

Ring your buzzer. You just answered correctly.

Six CSB and SJU students are studying this summer at Southwest University (SWU) in Beibei, Chongqing, China. The CSB/SJU students conduct research with graduate students from SWU, one of China’s premier research universities (it boosts 97 bachelor programs, 2,650 full time professors, nine post-doctoral research centers and a student population of nearly 50,000).

Meanwhile, three Chinese students came to CSB and SJU to conduct research in the biology and chemistry departments this summer.

“It really is a fantastic program — especially since it is an opportunity for science majors who sometimes do not otherwise have the opportunity to go abroad (during the academic year),” said Nichole Matuska, manager of global programs for the Center of Global Education at CSB and SJU who oversees the program.

  • CSB’s Amber Rudenick (sophomore, biochemistry major, Nicollet, Minnesota) and SJU’s Michael Kelly (junior, biochemistry major, Duluth, Minnesota) are conducting research with Dr. Xie Jianping. Jianping’s lab isolated and characterized the first mycobacterium phage in China.
  • CSB’s Kristine Vang (senior, environmental studies major, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota) and Elise Miller (junior, environmental studies, Avon, Minnesota) are conducting research with Dr. Li Changxiao. Changxiao’s research centers on the ecological rehabilitation and restoration of the water-level function belt of the Three Gorges River, and the dynamic changes on plant secondary metabolities and soil nutrition in the water-level fluctuation belt of the Three Gorges River.  
  • SJU’s Gabe Johnson (junior, chemistry major, Avon, Minnesota) and Jack Matuska (junior, chemistry major, Cold Spring, Minnesota) are conducting research with Dr. He Yanhong. Yanhong’s research centers on the synthesis and application of novel acid derivatives as catalysts for asymmetric reactions.
  • Chinese students Zhenhao Kou and Hongying Zhu conducted research with Katherine Furniss, visiting assistant professor of biology at CSB and SJU. Meining Gong conducted research with Md Abul Fazal, associate professor of chemistry at CSB and SJU.

Besides the research being conducted, CSB and SJU students get to experience daily the rich Chinese culture. They live with students on the SWU campus in dorms, and are able to explore Beibei and historic sites in the Chongqing area.

“This experience has been one of the most valued opportunities for personal growth I’ve ever had,” Kelly said. “Everyday, without fail, has brought new perspective and opportunity to learn.

“This program is a hidden gem,” Kelly added. “This experience is absolutely amazing for so many reasons and very affordable.”

Southwest University was formerly two different schools – Southwest China Normal University (the original partner of CSB/SJU), and Southwest China Agricultural University. The two Chinese schools – whose campuses were located next to each other in the city of Beibei merged in July 2005 to become Southwest University.

The relationship between CSB/SJU and Southwest Normal began with S. Baulu Kuan, OSB, visiting Southwest Normal in the early 1980s. S. Baulu chose the site because of the beauty of the campus and the famous art department there. She also believed that its rural setting (45 miles from Chongqing, one of the world’s largest municipalities and a major industrial and manufacturing center) was not unlike CSB/SJU’s location (70 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul).

In 1984, S. Baulu brought Academic Dean Robert Spaeth and Vice President Charles Villette to China with her. Southwest Normal officials presented Spaeth and Villette a contract to establish formal relations and exchanges.

The contract, which was signed in 1986, provided for faculty and student exchanges. CSB and SJU celebrated the 20th anniversary of the program in 2005 by announcing the Summer Science Research Program.

In 2015, Presidents Mary Dana Hinton of CSB and Michael Hemesath of SJU celebrated the 30th year of the relationship.