August 03, 2012 by Sandra Petri
Less than a year after Drexel University established a partnership with Shanghai Advanced Research Institute, the first Drexel co-op student arrived in China to take advantage of the cultural and educational partnership.
Amanda Pentecost, a bachelor’s and doctoral degree candidate in the materials engineering program, relocated to Shanghai in late April to complete her final co-op with SARI. She’s currently working as a research assistant on a project that “aims to develop a nanomaterial-based platform for anticancer drug delivery for brain tumor transplants,” as Pentecost explained in an email.
Pentecost’s work with SARI is an extension of the research she was already working on at Drexel. Her focus is on the chemistry of drug absorption and delivery in an attempt to deliver drugs to the brain in a noninvasive way.
She’s learning more than materials engineering, however.
“I believe that this international collaboration will do more than just help to bring together top scientists to work on interdisciplinary projects — it will also help each side to learn more about each other’s culture and lifestyle,” she wrote.
After growing up in South Jersey and attending a relatively local college, Pentecost was nervous about living and working in China.
“I knew that this co-op would be more than just expanding my knowledge as a scientific researcher — it would also test my limits as a growing college student,” she wrote. “I knew that I had to take the leap into this new world and learn everything I possibly could from the experience.”
Pentecost is finding time to explore China in addition to her work in the SARI lab. She’s traveled around Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou and has seen famous Chinese landmarks like the Great Wall of China and West Lake.
She explained that she felt relatively educated about world history and culture but that living in China opened her eyes and helped her see that she still has much to learn.
“My stay in China quickly taught me that what I had learned had barely scratched the surface, and in order to learn more about the world around me, it was essential to keep an open mind at all times and to physically travel to these different countries and immerse myself in their world,” Pentecost wrote.
According to Pentecost, she’s constantly challenged with the language barrier even though some of her Chinese friends help with translations.
Pentecost explained that it’s possible to get by in China without knowing the language, but she feels that she’s missed out on some opportunities because she can’t directly communicate with many people.
“It doesn’t help that the language has this stigma that it’s the most difficult language to learn, so it is really intimidating when you go to study it on your own, which is what I’ve been trying to do. However, bit by bit, I am learning some useful phrases and vocabulary, which I often use when I go out,” Pentecost wrote.
Pentecost has taken advantage of the opportunity to try authentic Chinese cuisine from different provinces.
“My favorite part about China, hands-down, is the food. … I wish I could bring back the food from here and show [my friends] how different real Chinese food is from the Chinese take-out places we are used to! The food here tastes much more fresh, flavorful, and healthier,” she said.
After she receives her bachelor’s degree next spring, Pentecost plans to continue studying at Drexel in order to complete her accelerated doctoral program. She hopes to change her concentration from materials to biomedical engineering in order to better understand the biological side of the research she’s done both in Philadelphia and in Shanghai.