The collaboration between ITMO and the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in the field of food biotechnology started in 2013. Since then, the universities have established a number of academic exchange programs, as well as held the Russian-Chinese Symposium organized with the support of the International Research Center “Biotechnologies of the Third Millennium”, and now they have started collaborating in the field of teaching as well.
The Chinese government places great emphasis on the development of educational activities in the country, which includes inviting international lecturers. As part of this initiative, representatives of the Harbin Institute of Technology (School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering) invited lecturers from the Faculty of Food Biotechnologies and Engineering to deliver a series of lectures on molecular nutrition. Over the course of a month, three ITMO lecturers, Lyudmila Nadtochiy, Vera Ivanova and Oksana Golovinskaya, worked with first-year PhD students of the Harbin University of Technology.
“The most difficult part about this project was that we hadn’t taught this course at ITMO and thus had to prepare all the material from scratch based on the results of the latest research conducted in this field. However, the representatives of the Harbin Institute of Technology did everything in their power to make our work as comfortable as possible: we were given round-the-clock access to their databases, which meant that we could easily find all the information we needed. What is remarkable about this course is that it focuses not on the fundamentals of molecular nutrition, but on the current trends and problems in this field, which, in my opinion, is much more important,” shares Lyudmila Nadtochiy, an associate professor at the Faculty of Food Biotechnologies and Engineering.
The course consisted of lectures and discussions and didn’t include any practical assignments. However, the lecturers say that they provided consultation to students. They also noted a very high level of professional training and good knowledge of English among Chinese students, which facilitated communication.
“The staff of the Harbin Institute of Technology also attended our classes in order to assess the quality of our work and check if students were actively involved in the process. We taught a small group of ten PhD students, as well as consulted Master’s students on their research projects. As part of the course on molecular nutrition, one class was dedicated to students presenting their research works and speaking about the topics of their PhD theses and possible problems of their implementation,” notes Vera Ivanova, an assistant at the Faculty of Food Biotechnologies and Engineering.
Apart from the course of lectures at the Harbin Institute of Technology, the grant also covered visits to several other Chinese universities. For example, the ITMO staff presented their research at the annual conference in the northern city of Qiqihar, organized by the Heilongjiang Institute of Natural Products Engineering.
“We presented an open lecture in the city of Yangzhou for the students of Yangzhou University, majoring in food biotechnology. Apart from that, we attended practical classes in community nutrition, where we had a chance to try traditional Chinese dishes,” shares Oksana Golovinskaya, an associate professor at the Faculty of Food Biotechnologies and Engineering.
“At Yangzhou University, we were given a tour of the laboratories and what surprised us the most was the number of student initiatives brought to the market. It’s so great that students can bring their ideas to life,” explains Vera Ivanova.
Shanghai Ocean University and its College of Food Science and Technology is yet another venue that the lecturers visited as part of their program.
“We were impressed by how similar their educational programs and research topics are to ours. In the course of negotiations, we discussed possible prospects for cooperation between our universities, and in particular, exchange programs for our students and young researchers,” comments Lyudmila Nadtochiy.
“This was my second time working abroad. The first was in Taiwan about six months ago, but back then I mostly focused on research work. This time it was a completely different thing, since the emphasis was on teaching, preparing lectures, organizing discussions and communication with international students. I have noticed that the Chinese students’ daily life is very much different from that of Russian students. In China, professors don’t control the research process that much. They just discuss key aspects of future research with their students, give them some tasks and then discuss the results. Students have round-the-clock access to laboratories and every student has their own desk at the laboratory,” shares Oksana Golovinskaya.
Summing up their impressions, the participants of the program say that it was a very valuable experience and one that was useful for both the ITMO staff and the students of the Harbin Institute of Technology. Thanks to the program, the representatives of ITMO and Chinese universities had an opportunity to discuss the prospects for future collaboration, which will possibly open up new opportunities for ITMO University students majoring in the field of food biotechnology.