Currently, a professor at Beijing Normal University, Dongpeng tells us how the RSC has given him opportunities for career progression and explains how the RSC could better support global chemistry students.
Dongpeng’s interest in chemistry was sparked in school: “I did simple experiments, like changing the colour of flowers with vinegar. Later, I learned more about how chemicals work together to form different compounds which solidified my interest.”
Studying in high school didn’t satiate Dongpeng’s desire to learn, so he decided to continue his studies in higher education. “The level of learning in high school isn’t very high,” he says. “I did applied chemistry for my undergraduate degree. For my master’s and PhD, I focused on materials chemistry and chemical engineering. Today, I am a professor at Beijing Normal University teaching fundamental chemistry to entry-level students studying chemistry, physics and biology.”
Dongpeng joined the RSC because of its famous reputation and global connections within the chemical community.
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When asked about what he values most about the RSC, Dongpeng cites the access to valuable information. “I have access to monthly journals about new developments and research in education, academia and the industry. I also get emails about upcoming events and news.”
RSC membership has helped Dongpeng throughout his education and career. It initially supported him during his studies in the UK. “I went to Cambridge University to do work on luminescence during my PhD career. Later, I went to UCL to do pharmaceutical research with the current head of the School of Pharmacy.”
When Dongpeng became a professor, the RSC continued to support him in his work.
In 2018, the RSC student club in Beijing invited me to talk to PhD and secondary school students about my career. It was a great experience because I could help them plan their next steps, and show them how to do research and write papers. But, from their feedback, I also learned new techniques that I can use when teaching my own students.
This was a mutually beneficial experience for Dongpeng and the students.
Dongpeng also appreciates the ease with which he can connect with other scientists. “Membership is helpful because it opens doors for new opportunities for collaboration. For example, when I was awarded the Newton Advanced Fellowship in 2020 alongside Prof. Jonathan Steed, Fellow membership made collaboration easier and more effective.”
And these connections have supported him throughout his career. “The RSC connected me with the Beijing Chemical Society and we carried out a small seminar to discuss new developments in materials science in 2021. They also invited editors who supported us in making our next steps,” he says. He also expressed a desire for more networking events: “I hope there will be further opportunities for the Chinese Chemical Society to collaborate with the RSC in the future.”
Dongpeng is hopeful that the RSC will focus on creating more opportunities for members to meet worldwide.
I hope there will be even more opportunities for members and Fellows to connect with each other. Much of the time you only know someone’s name from a journal, but the RSC can help make global collaboration with these people possible.
“The RSC has very good connections with the academic field, but I hope to see a bigger focus on improving industry connections,” Dongpeng explains that, based on his experience, there is value in extending the RSC’s reach. “Because I studied and worked in the UK, I know that there are a lot of valuable developments in the UK industry. It would be great for the RSC to further develop its links in the area to help members access resources, people and job opportunities.”
Because of the benefits, Dongpeng encourages his students to join the RSC and make use of those valuable opportunities. “Of course, I encourage my students to join the RSC!” he beams. “It’s very important for them to participate in conferences and events. Two of my students won RSC poster prizes from RSC conferences in China, so it’s very beneficial!”
Since student membership is important to Dongpeng, he hopes for more focus on supporting students in global networking.
There are currently only five Chinese universities that have an RSC student club. This means a lot of good universities with talented students like ours aren’t benefiting from RSC membership opportunities. So, I really hope the RSC will build more connections with Chinese universities in the future to help our students progress.
“Last year, our university [Beijing Normal University] gave us funding to send some of our students to Cambridge university and form research connections in the UK. This was an invaluable experience for our students. Maybe in the future, the RSC can help build links between universities in the UK and China to make it easier for students to study abroad and make important connections.”
As well as an advocate for the RSC and chemistry students worldwide, he also believes that chemistry has the power to change the world. Unsurprisingly, his comments aren’t just big vague statements, but are backed by the kind of practical vision one might expect from a Doctor of Chemistry: “CO2 emissions cause pollution but if we reduce these emissions and convert CO2 into a useful chemical compound, then chemistry can change the world.”