Hi, Robot: Alicia Mollaun with some of the hi-tech research she saw at Chinese universities.

Learning from China's elite

14 May 2013

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Alicia Mollaun is a PhD scholar in the Public Policy and Governance stream of Crawford School. She is currently residing in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Connections between Chinese and Australian students are set to be stronger following a visit to some of China’s elite universities by Crawford School’s Alicia Mollaun.

PhD scholar Mollaun visited five of China’s top universities in April as a member of a delegation organised by the Group of Eight (Go8) Universities in Australia through the Student Leadership of International Cooperation project.

Mollaun said that she was impressed by both the facilities available to students at the universities, and the hi-tech focus of the research happening there.

“There is a lot of focus on science and engineering and Chinese universities are conducting world-class research – a lot of the time with industry partners,” she said.

“At Shanghai Jiao Tong University we visited a Sino-Italian green energy lab where students were working on projects to make air conditioning more effective and designing zero emissions apartments. At the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei we visited a fire science lab where the research facilities included wind tunnels and model apartment buildings to research how fire behaves in different situations.”

One of the aims of the trip was to develop proposals to increase Australian and Chinese student mobility. On their return to Australia, Mollaun and the group came up with a number of ideas that were presented to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

“We proposed a number of short-term and long-term measures, including increased support for Australian students to attend summer school in China, promoting the funding opportunities available to international students to study in China (because the Chinese Government provides a lot of scholarships to international students to study there) and develop more research collaborations with Chinese universities.

For Mollaun, who is based in Islamabad, Pakistan, it was her first visit to China. She says that she was struck by the warm welcome she and the delegates received in the country and had experiences that will stay with her for a lifetime.

“China was wonderful – everyone was welcoming and friendly and it was easy enough to get around despite the fact I spoke no Mandarin.

“There were so many highlights on the trip. It was wonderful to ride a bike 14 kilometres around the old city walls of Xi’an, ordering a meal in Hefei with only sign language, which turned out to be the best meal of our trip, and wandering around the beautiful campuses and meeting some great students.”

But the trip was about much more than just sampling the culture and seeing the sites, as Mollaun explained.

“One professor told me that Chinese universities are keen to increase research collaboration with international students and faculties – and there were plenty of opportunities for funding short and longer term research projects for Australian research students to spend some time in China.

“Australia’s relationship with China will be one of our most important, as outlined in the Asian Century White Paper. If Crawford School students want to enhance their careers, I would highly recommend spending some time in China,” she said.

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