Jessica Wilson ‘15: Summer research at Tianjin University

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Friday, Oct. 10, 2014

Jessica Wilson, Princeton undergraduate 15'

This past summer undergraduate student Jessica Wilson ’15 traveled to Tianjin University in Tianjin, China to conduct chemistry research in the joint laboratory of Professors Tian Huang and Jay Siegel. 

Wilson, who has studied Chinese for nine years, was looking for an opportunity that would allow her to perform research while fully immersed in the Chinese culture. For guidance, she reached out to her research advisor, Professor Erik Sorensen, and Dr. Robert L’Esperance, the chemistry department’s director of undergraduate studies. They suggested contacting Professor Jay Siegel, the Dean of the School of Pharmaceutical Technology and Science at Tianjin University, and Sorenson’s former colleague at the University of California, San Diego. 

With the help of her advisors Wilson was able to set up a summer research experience in the Huang-Siegel lab. Funding for this unique research venture was provided by the Office of the Dean of the College through the generosity of the Horton Elmer 1942/1992 Fund.

“I was totally blown away by Tianjin,” Wilson said. She noticed that in the Huang-Siegel lab, undergraduates, master’s and PhD students all worked in the same lab and had desks in the group room. “Since many of the master’s and PhD students at Tianjin did their undergraduate work there, the lab is like one big chemistry family,” Wilson said.

She observed that while the graduate students at Tianjin did not have formal teaching requirements the undergraduates in the lab asked them tons of questions. “Researching in Tianjin has taught me just how important it is to feel comfortable asking other people in the lab questions,” Wilson said. “That was something I didn’t really understand as a third year student and I think it will serve me well, especially if I go to graduate school,” she said.

Jessica Wilson (right) and Feng Hejing (left) wash their hands in tea-pot fountain in Chengdu, China