Cross-border affairs

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During June and July 2012 I’ve had an exchange student working with me. Linrun Feng came from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and is one of the most experienced and successful PhD students in the Electronics department. Linrun is the recipient of a Santander PhD Student Scholarship and was visiting the UK for the first time.

Together we’ve been working in the ATI clean room on making new transistors, which are the building blocks of electronic circuits. The ones we’ve been trying to create are based on organic semiconductors, which can be processed without the need for high temperatures, vacuum systems or expensive tools. The idea is to make flexible electronic circuits on plastic with low-cost technologies.

It’s not easy to leave your home country for the very first time on a two-month trip, but coming to Surrey makes it a lot more bearable. Aside from the top research facilities, there are plenty of distractions in the region to keep homesickness at bay and I think the visit was a genuinely useful experience for both Linrun and me.

In early July we went to an event in London to meet Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton! Bet you didn’t think researchers get out of the lab much… It turns out we get to have quite exciting social lives!

During his nine weeks spent here, Linrun has managed to:

  • Fabricate seven batches of devices in our research programme
  • Set up three more personal collaborations with ATI scientists
  • Use and plan future use of facilitates available in the Faculty
  • Position our collaboration very favourably for future funding applications
  • Do enough joint work for at least two good research papers

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It gets even better.  He has also:

  • Shaken Jenson Button’s hand
  • Helped a former colleague and Surrey graduate with her job applications in the UK
  • Become a National Trust member and visited a handful of houses and parks
  • Visited Oxford, Brighton and the Surrey Hills
  • Experienced riding a horse
  • Walked around Highclere Castle, the setting of the fictitious Downton Abbey and once home of Lord Carnavron, Egyptologist and Howard Carter’s funder
  • Remained unimpressed by most European cuisine
  • Drunk tea with milk
  • Got some good deals on sports shoes
  • Travelled to London a number of times
  • Seen Buckingham Palace. Twice!
  • Witnessed the rainiest British summer ever but had a few days of perfect blue sky
  • Loved every minute of it!

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Linrun tells me that he’s working hard to establish a career in science and that he’s looking forward to his next trip to the UK. We both have to thank the International Office for awarding him the Santander Postgraduate Award and hope we can get him to visit again soon.

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