Nineteen new Chinese PhDs at UPMC and Paris-Sorbonne

There are three important events for the doctoral scholarship program between the China Scholarship Council and Sorbonne University: an anniversary, the upcoming arrival of the second intake of Chinese PhD students, and the issue of a call for applications for the third intake.

1. An anniversary

Just two years ago, on September 18, 2014, the China Scholarship Council (CSC), one of the main organizations for further-education funding in China, promised to grant up to 30 PhD scholarships per year, for five years, to Chinese students completing their thesis at a Sorbonne University institution.

Sorbonne University signed an agreement with the Cité universitaire internationale student residence in Paris to house foreign students and, in particular, young Chinese students attending its institutions.

The first intake of Chinese PhD students arrived in Paris in the fall of 2015. There were 19 students, one completing a thesis at Paris-Sorbonne and the other 18 at UPMC.     

2. The second intake

The institutions of Sorbonne University are now preparing to welcome the second intake of Chinese PhD students: again, there will be 19 students, but this time only 13 of them will be attending UPMC. The other six will be at Paris-Sorbonne, whose doctoral schools offered more thesis subjects to the CSC in the second call for applications than in the first. ·        

3. The third call for applications

On September 1, 2016, Sorbonne University issued a new call for applications among teachers-researchers within the community in order to submit the thesis subjects to the CSC for the third intake of Chinese PhD students, due to arrive in fall 2017. 

Meeting with a Chinese PhD student at UPMC

Shuai Liang studied at the Harbin Institute of Technology, one of the best universities in China, with which Sorbonne University has a strategic partnership. He is one of the students receiving a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council to complete his thesis at a Sorbonne University institution. He arrived in France in September 2015 and is a PhD student at the Institut des systèmes intelligents et de robotique (Isir) at UPMC.


What is the subject of your thesis?

It concerns the use of a robotized system to carry out micro- or nano-handling on tiny targets: for example to obtain scanned imagery of cancerous cells or to assemble mechanical components on the order of magnitude of the micrometer. 

Why did you choose France and UPMC?

First of all, because I knew that UPMC was one of the best French universities, and that I would have the opportunity to acquire the most advanced knowledge and broaden my scientific horizons. And also, because I love French culture. There are so many books, films and stories that represent this culture in an appealing way. Since I am very curious, I wanted to see the real France.

What has this experience in a French laboratory given you?

The researchers at Isir produce a lot of excellent work on robotics and make a great contribution to the field. I am very lucky to be working with them. I am doing what I love, and learning with some of the best professors in robotics. It is a wonderful experience that will help me to develop an exacting scientific mind and will offer me constant training in problem-solving. I believe that, thanks to this experience, in future I will be better equipped to deal with difficulties, not just in research but in life in general.

How did you adjust to UPMC and to the international student residence in Paris?

I was welcomed by the teachers-researchers and students at UPMC. We talk together, eat together and play together. And whenever I have a problem with anything, they all rush to help me.

As for the international student residence, I am very happy to be living there. There are a lot of opportunities to take part in activities, to make friends from other countries, to explore French culture and to speak French.

What are the main differences between life in Paris and in China?

There is more leisure time here. The thing I would like to change in Paris is the stores being closed on Sundays: in China they are open, and if people are busy on Saturday they can do their shopping on Sunday!

What is your professional goal after you complete your PhD?

I would like to create a robotics company, to do something that would really improve people’s lives.  

Overlapping perspectives on ancient Greek and Chinese medicine

At Paris-Sorbonne, Véronique Boudon-Millot heads the Far East & Mediterranean mixed research unit and one of the components of this mixed research unit: the Greek medicine team. The PhD scholarship program of the China Scholarship Council allowed her to recruit a Chinese PhD student to explore an innovative theme: “Soul and body in ancient Greek and Chinese medicine: comparative approaches.”




What was your goal in offering this subject to a Chinese PhD student?

The idea is to create cross-currents between fields that are commonly studied separately: to combine the observations of a Chinese student of ancient Greek medicine with a western approach to ancient Chinese medicine, so as to find out whether these two cultures share a common approach to medicine in some ways. 

What might the similarities be?

It seems that the approach to the human body in ancient Chinese medicine is quite close to that of the Hippocratic corpus. For the Greeks, the body is structured according to the model of the universe. It was a microcosm comprising four elements: water, earth, fire, and air. In Chinese medicine, the human body was also seen as a microcosm, comprising five elements. In both cases, there was a very close link between philosophy and medicine, which was logical given that the cosmos had to be understood before understanding the microcosm represented by the body. Furthermore, in China as well as in Greece there was a very rich culture of traditional medicine. 

Does this thesis open a new field of research?

I hope so. For the moment, one of the few researchers able to create links between ancient Greek and Chinese medicines is a British historian, Geoffrey Lloyd, from the University of Cambridge. In France, there are specialists in each area, but not in both. And this is why this thesis will be a joint thesis. Since I am a specialist in Greek medicine, I will supervise the thesis jointly with a specialist in Chinese thought: Florence Bretelle-Establet, from Sphere* laboratory. 

Has Liqiong Yang, the student that you recruited, already worked on ancient medicine?

No. She studied ancient history and has worked a little on the Greek historians and philosophers. That’s what led her to apply for this thesis. I was surprised: in France, we wonder whether it is useful to continue to teach Greek, whereas in China students learn about Greek history and thought! 

Does she know Greek?

No, but she has studied Latin and is prepared to learn Greek. She will have to study Greek texts, and even if she mainly uses translations, she wants to be able to compare them with original versions. She clearly has a great capacity for work. This is one of the reasons why I selected her application, since this thesis will require considerable investment. There were other arguments, such as that she has been learning French for two years and is able to write in French. In addition, she has a firm professional goal. After her PhD, she wants to join a Chinese university to continue her research in antiquity. She knows several researchers in this field who did part of their studies in the west and found a position in China. So this confirms the interest in China for western antiquity.

*Sphere: Laboratory of Science, Philosophy & History.

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