Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summing It Up...

To potential applicants:

I think this is an absolutely great program, especially if you enjoy traveling to other countries. Living and working in Beijing was an absolute blast! The group of people that came on the program made it that much more enjoyable. Besides work, there are always other things to do, whether its during the week or on the weekends. Activities range from shopping at the Pearl Market, visiting famous cultural sites, going clubbing etc... I'm not a big shopper, but even I enjoyed haggling at the clothing markets and the art shop.

If you are at all worried about the language barrier/living in a foreign city, just know that the program has a great support staff to help you both at the UMich Joint Institute in Beijing (Prof. James Lee and Julia Feng) and at the Chemistry department at PKU.

I apologize for my boring blog. For a more humorous and frequent blog, check out Spencer "the Hattrick" Leong's blog.

Feel free to contact me at if you have specific questions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Last Week

The last week in Beijing was pretty relaxing. I had visited my family the previous week and came back to Beijing via the night train on Wednesday morning. Later that day we went to visit the Birds nest and the Ice Cube by the Olympic park.

In front of the Birds nest

One of only two 7 star hotels in the world! (next to the ice cube)

In front of the ice cube

On Thursday, we visited the Capital museum where we saw some amazing collection of Chinese art and historical collections. Afterwards, we strolled over to the nearly Xidan shopping district to buy some Ma Hua (delicious twisted fried dough). The same night we had our presentations...via Skype...haha...the connection was on and off but in worked ok overall. To pass time when the connection failed, we all sang along to Beijing huan ying ni....the theme song for this olympics.

On Friday, Spencer and I visited the Fragrant Hills Park where we spent 2 hours climbing the mountain.

A view of the mountain side. The view is supposed to be even better in the Fall because all the leaves turn red.

I spend Saturday packing and left early Sunday morning for the airport with the rest of the group. On Sunday morning we got up at 4 am to go the airport. The drive through the empty streets of Beijing was pleasant and quite a contrast to the norm.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cheng De Trip

My Professor Pei Jian invited our entire lab including Kelly and I on a trip to Cheng De and the grasslands by inner Mongolia. The historic city of Cheng De once served as the primary summer vacation spot for the emperor. The "Avoiding Heat Mountain Village" (literal translation) in Cheng De was designed to be a place for the emperor to cool down and hunt. Two other sites that we visited in Cheng De is the Puning Temple and the Putuo Zongcheng Temple.

Just inside the city walls of the Avoiding Heat Mountain Village

A nice view from the mountain top.

Me at one of the temples in the Avoiding Heat Mountain Village

Putuo Zongcheng Temple as seen from the Mountain.

Puning Temple

In the grasslands we enjoyed the beautiful scenics, a fun horse ride, and a satisfying lamb feast.

On the way to the Moon Lake

Riding back to camp by the Moon lake.

Outdoor KTV after our lamb feast

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Last couple weeks of work

The past couple of weeks have been quite busy for me as I've been finishing up the total synthesis of my compound. In fact, I just completed the last synthetic step of my compound today. Over the past week, it's been more or less the same: lab work until dinner time, and then work on my poster and powerpoint presentation afterwards. It's not as bad as it sounds, however, because the organic labs are shutting down a couple of weeks before the physical and analytical labs due to Olympic regulations. That means that I essentially have two weeks to relax before heading back to the states. This weekend, I'm taking a trip with my lab to Cheng De, the city where emperors used to spend their summers. Next week, I'm taking a trip to Wuhan to visit some of my family members. So everything has worked out pretty well.


Monday, June 30, 2008

How to miss three consecutive buses

I don't really have much to say, but I did manage to miss three consecutive buses today, so I guess I'll talk about that...haha There are 2 buses (355, 365) that go from the PKU East gate (where the chem building is) to our Wanliu apartments.

First, I was walking over the bridge that goes over the Zhong Guan Cun Road when I sighted the 355 bus off in the distant. I figured, if I started running, I could probably make the bus. So I sprinted all the way to the bus stop, got out my bus card, and was about to get on...but then...the bus driver decided to close the doors in my face and drive off. That's happened to me before, so I figured I'll catch the next bus...

10 min later, a 365 arrived. I can't possibly miss a bus while standing AT the bus stop right?!... Since there are so many different buses that arrive (seemingly simultaneously) at each stop, each bus has its designated parking spot. And the bus drivers are really picky about people getting own at the exact spot along the bus stop. Since I didn't want to po the bus driver, I waited at the 365 spot. But the bus decided to pull up at the 355 spot (the total opposite end of the bus stop!) and it wasn't even by curb, it was parked one lane over. The 365 stopped for 10 sec, while I was starring at it, and it drove off. (buses here apparently run in pairs and come at 20-30 min intervals as apposed to one every 10-15 min...sometimes it seems like the bus drivers are racing each other, but that's just my hypothesis). Anyways, so 10 seconds afterwards, another 365 came. But that bus assumed that the first one had picked everyone up from my stop, so it didn't even bother stopping...

Meanwhile, I was like "Oh crap! I guess I'll just take a cab home" (it was getting late 9:30pm). This shouldn't have happened, but 2 min later, another 365 came...I was half expecting it to keep on driving, but it surprisingly stopped at the right place and I managed to get on...miraculously! Of course my bus somehow got into a traffic jam at this one intersection as another 365 passed us. After passing that intersection, my bus driver assumed that the previous three 365 have picked everyone up, so we essentially only stopped at 3 of the next 6 stops...haha...and that was just to drop people off. But the funny part was, since we didn't really stop anywhere, our bus driver drove incredibly fast. In fact, he drove so fast that the entire bus was vibrating like it had two flat tires.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Lab Do's and Don'ts

Lab Do's:
Talking to Grad students
Smelling disgusting organic solvents

Lab Don'ts
1) Don't spill chloroform on the rubber gloves that you are reacts with the rubber and gives off heat(if you do spill it on your gloves, don't leave your gloves on for 5 min like I did)

2) Try not to do reactions involving Sulfur....S-CH3 exchanged for a Br smells like rotten eggs x 20 ...I'm not even smelled so bad we had to go on another floor to do our reaction just so that our lab group won't hate us for the rest of the month.

3) Don't forget what you learned in Ochem lab....when doing a reflux, the incoming water goes in the bottom of the cooling vessel and comes out the top, not the other way around....lets just say that I had a little mishap in the lab today

4) Don't pour your product into a column before the silica gel has settled completely. You will get a very crooked column and some of your product will come out at the same time as some byproducts.


Weekened adventures

On Saturday, we decided to go to the Golden Resource Mall (Asia's largest mall) to do some ice skating. This mall is just absolutely amazing! It spans a couple blocks length wise and another 2 blocks width wise. The fifth floor is the dining floor and it has round 20 restaurants with cuisines from all around China. In addition, it has an arcade room and 2-3 bubble tea kiosks. Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC and Papa John's are on the first floor. Everything else between 1 and 5th floor is a shopper's paradise, but it doesn't interest me since all I care about is eating (ask anyone from our group...haha) Ok, back to skating. The skating rink is on the second basement level, one level below the car dealership. Think about that! A car dealership underneath a shopping mall! Anyways, ice skating was very fun. Once you buy a ticket, you get to skate for 90 min (skate rental included). Getting skates was an adventure in itself since all the sizes are the same as European sizes. Once we had the sizes figured out, I still couldn't fit into my skates because I apparently have wide feet. So I had to get skates that were 3 sizes bigger. Finally, we were able to get on the ice and have some fun. It was a blast! I also thought it was really funny that there were a bunch of 6-7 year olds in full ice hockey gear zooming up and down the ice trying hit each other.

Sunday was Allison's Birthday, so we out for dinner and afterwards had cake. At dinner, we ordered this delicious eggplant dish that we devoured in 10 min. So naturally, we had to order a second plate of it. However, the chefs decided to play a joke on us and purposely (maybe...) left the seeds in the green pepper that were in the eggplant dish(just fyi...peppers that seem like ordinary bell peppers are frequently hotter than any pepper you've ever if you don't watch out, everything will taste like rubber for a month) After we were done eating, we had quite a few of those green peppers left. So I came up with the stupid idea of spinning the "glass spinner" (often times tables at Chinese tables are round, and have a glass spinner in the middle so that the food can be rotated around the table for everyone to share), and whoever the plate of peppers pointed to had to eat a green pepper filled with seeds. The spinner pointed to a few people and finally made its way in my direction. After eating my pepper (it wasn't that bad) I gave the spinner a big push....and along the somehow knocked over quite a few dishes and tea cups and spilled some sauce/juice on Nicole's skirt.

I forgot to mention that we've played our second soccer match on Sunday as well. Every Sunday there are a whole bunch of students from the University playing recreationally. Spencer "the Hattrick" Leong dominated the game like Cristiano Ronaldo did in the Champions League Final. It was just a great overall performance! Mr. Hattrick even promised more goals in the near future. Also, Melody "Gerrard" Campbell showed her smoothness and agility on the pitch by defending the back end of the field like no other player. Her toughness and leadership will certainly lead to a contract extension from FC Liverpool.