By Jessica Travis

Dr. Soundarapandian Vijayakumar, SUNY Cobleskill Assistant Professor, traveled to Nanjing, China this summer to teach and present his research regarding polycystic kidney disease and epithelial cell biology. This travel was in support of the biotechnology dual diploma agreement between SUNY Cobleskill and the Jinling Institute of Technology. International accredited agreements such as this ensure the college is steadily becoming a globalized campus which provides rewarding cross – cultural experiences to students and faculty alike.

Throughout four weeks, Dr. Vijayakumar led 26 students over intensive coursework in Biochemistry. Specific topics covered in class included lectures on chemical bonds, the chemistry of water and the structure and function of biological macromolecules such as DNA, proteins and lipids. Alongside classroom instruction, Dr. Vijayakumar also devoted time to educating students and faculty on his research concerning the mechanism by which cysts in human kidneys develop and grow to yield Polycystic Kidney Disease. This research adds a whole new dimension to the study of Polycystic Kidney Disease because it indicates that an abnormal expression of an extracellular matrix protein called laminin – 511 in the kidneys is an early event in these diseases and may play a key role in the cyst development and growth.

With rich Chinese culture and history right at his fingertips, time spent in China was not strictly reserved for the classroom. Dr. Vijayakumar seized several opportunities to experience the historic and monumental sights throughout China firsthand. This included climbing the Great Wall of China and visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing. Explorations to the Bund, YuYuan Garden and the Jingaan Buddha Temple in Shanghai, as well as first-hand observations of the Sun Yat San Museum, the Presidential Palace, Confucius Temple and the Nanjing Massacre Museum. “Learning other cultures and trying new things is an experience I would definitely recommend to students and faculty,” says Dr. Vijayakumar. “My students were great. They worked very hard and though there was a language barrier, it was never a troublesome issue.”

Students attending the Jinling Institute of Technology can acquire a Chinese accredited degree alongside a SUNY Cobleskill accredited degree through participation in the “3 + 1” dual diploma program in Biotechnology. Specifically, international students enrolling in this dual diploma program spend their first three years of undergraduate study attending the Jinling Institute of Technology, then transition right onto the SUNY Cobleskill campus for their concluding time of study. Partnerships between the campus and Chinese higher education institutions not only provide great opportunities for faculty members and international students to experience a different culture, but they also offer domestic students who are unfamiliar with the concept of study abroad or simply can’t participate in overseas programs the opportunity to engage first-hand with international students right on campus. Through continued campus collaborations on international platforms such as this, SUNY Cobleskill is building on its commitment to provide a culturally diverse environment for all.