Student exchange helps build bridges

13 July 2015

Chinese Neuroscience and Neuroimaging student Zheng Tan has just left Denmark after having spent eight weeks working at Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN) at Aarhus University Hospital

CFIN houses a magnetoencephalography (MEG) system used to record the weak magnetic fields produced by the brain's electrical activity. The challenging problem of determining the locations of neuronal networks generating the signals is aided by the analysis of anatomical information provided by separately acquired magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the head.

During his stay in Denmark Zheng Tan worked on development of methods for providing an accurate and robust pipeline for MRI-MEG integration that ultimately increases the amount of information available on what goes on in the brain.

A good opportunity

Zheng Tan is originally from the Hunan Province in Southern China, but currently studies his Master's degree in Neuroscience and Neuroimaging at Sino-Danish Center in Beijing. Tan is a bachelor of mechanical engineering, but has become more interested in the mechanics of the brain than that of machines.

"There is a lot we don't know about the brain. The field is expanding a lot these years and the equipment gets better all the time, so it's very exciting. Christopher (Bailey) is very experienced in this field, so it is a very good opportunity for me to come here and work with him."

Exchanging research and ideas long-term

Meanwhile Christopher Bailey, who also teaches classes at Neuroscience & Neuroimaging in Beijing, also enjoys working with Chinese students in Denmark and relishes the opportunity to get a bit closer to fellow researchers in Beijing.

"It is nice to have students involved in our projects, and Tan has shown great initiative and been very interested in learning some quite technical skills. It has been nice to talk to him and getting to know what he is working on and articulating common interests, because that also brings us closer to what goes on at the lab in Beijing. So having a student like Tan also helps build bridges between Denmark and China that can increase exchange of research and ideas long-term."

Cultural differences

Christopher Bailey is aware that there is a very different work and laboratory culture in Denmark as opposed to China. He has experienced, that it takes a bit of time for Chinese students to settle, and that it is important to match expectations for their stay ahead of giving them the opportunity to express themselves.

"I see it as my job to setup the framework for Tan to work within and then let him express himself and go in the direction he finds interesting. Tan has done very well and not only looked for answers, but also thought of why those answers are important to what he is working on. I hope he takes that learning home with him."

During the last two months Zheng Tan has experienced a very different culture than he is used to from home. The work hours in Denmark are shorter, but more efficient, and not having a 1,5 hour lunch break with time for a nap took some getting used to. Now it is time to go home though.

"Besides the studies, I think it is quieter and more relaxed in Denmark, and I have gone running by the sea with the department running club every Thursday. I have really enjoyed my stay. But now I look forward to going home, continuing working on my thesis and eating normal food."