New student cohort welcomed to campus

Grant from China Scholarship Council promotes graduate study collaboration with Xi’an Jiaotong University

(From left) Xiangjun Peng, Lin Liu and Yuan Hong make up the first dual PhD cohort from Xi'an Jiaotung University. The students were the first to be accepted into the dual-degree program at WashU. (Photo: Jerry Naunheim Jr./Washington University)

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis recently welcomed the first cohort of students funded by a prestigious new grant from the China Scholarship Council, the Chinese Ministry of Education’s branch that oversees international exchange and collaboration. The award establishes an “International Cooperative Program for Innovative Talents” (ICPIT) and makes possible a dual doctoral program with Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), a McDonnell International Scholars Academy partner.

The three-year, renewable program will enable up to six doctoral students per year to pursue research on projects in the areas of life sciences, energy and informatics involving collaborations between the McKelvey School of Engineering and Xi’an Jiaotong University. These students also will meet the requirements for PhD degrees at both institutions.

This program builds upon a strong foundation of collaboration between the two universities, including partnership not only through the McDonnell Academy but also XJTU’s University Alliance of the Silk Road.

Last summer, Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs, led a Washington University delegation to Xi’an. There, they met with partners, including XJTU Vice President Guang Xi, to solidify the project proposal. Together, the two universities presented it to the CSC’s leadership in Beijing.

“We are excited to welcome this inaugural cohort to Washington University,” Dirks said. “This program is a terrific example of how our strong international relationships can lead to important joint study opportunities and research projects.

The three students from XJTU arrived at Washington University in time for the fall semester. These students will participate in classes at both universities, and they will participate in research that could include genetics and mechanobiology of disease and development. The students have advisers at both institutions.

“This grant allows us to bring together world-class resources in engineering, medicine and life sciences to train future global leaders,” said Guy Genin, the Harold and Kathleen Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and McDonnell Academy ambassador to XJTU. “I’m excited to combine the resources of one of China’s leading centers on mechanobiology, the Bioinspired Engineering and Biomechanics Center at XJTU, with those of the Center for Engineering MechanoBiology (CEMB) at WashU and the McKelvey School of Engineering.”

CEMB is one of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s 14 “science and technology centers” across all areas of science. This joint project between Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania, along with several satellite sites, is charged with the mission of developing research and education platforms at the intersection of physics and biology.

“Awards through the highly competitive ICPIT program establish partnerships to develop future scientific leaders in areas of critical scientific importance, and we are thrilled to support this important new collaboration between Washington University and Xi’an Jiaotong,” said XJTU International Vice President Xi Guang. “We are very pleased that the CSC launched the ICPIT program in 2014 to enable premier Chinese universities to connect with other top research institutes worldwide for the purpose of developing world-class interdisciplinary educational programs.”

“This is an exciting opportunity to harness first-rate students and faculty to address critical topics,” said Feng Xu, director of the Bioinspired Engineering and Biomechanics Center at XJTU and co-principal investigator with Genin on the grant. “We are grateful to the leadership at XJTU and WashU for laying the groundwork for this opportunity.”

Recruitment for the 2020 cohort of up to six students is now in progress. McKelvey School of Engineering faculty interested in mentoring a graduate student through the program are invited to contact Teresa Sarai, assistant dean for international relations at the McKelvey School of Engineering.