Winter School in Wuhan

Winter School in Wuhan Image

4th ICG School is the largest to date

The fourth ICG Winter School at the Wuhan University of Technology in China began on Sunday 4th November 2018 with registration in the ornate and spacious entrance lobby of the Vienna International Hotel. The day marked a transition from warm autumnal weather to colder wetter conditions which perhaps better suited our planned indoor activity.

The Opening Ceremony started at 8am on Monday and needed a large lecture theatre at the Conference Centre on the Mafangshan Campus of the University. We were warmly welcomed by Prof Zuyuan Liu, the vice president of the University. These words of welcome were echoed by the ICG president Prof Alicia Durán and immediate past president Prof Manoj Choudhary who together warmly welcomed the 57 or so student participants in the audience along with the 16 international lecturers giving the course. Prof Shou Peng, a past ICG president who has strongly supported the creation of the ICG schools in China was unfortunately unable to attend and sent his apologies. Prof Parker outlined the activities that ICG undertakes for the glass community and introduced the students to the school's format, explaining the importance of getting involved to maximise the benefits available, using a quiz to illustrate the need to process and analyse the information provided.

Finally those students who had received grants to travel from beyond Asia to the event, 6 in total all from Europe, were presented with their awards. At the end of the school one of the visiting students explained what being able to attend had meant, ‘The school has let me bounce ideas with worldwide experts, and experience China for the first time. A world powerhouse where research is concerned. Massive thanks to organisers and Chinese students.'

This innovation supported by Prof Shou Peng had a second unexpected and very positive consequence, which was the resulting interactions between students from different cultures. On the questionnaire responses, almost every student without prompting highlighted this as a key benefit of the course. Because the European students were separated for the project work everyone had to work hard at communicating and this certainly gave the Chinese more confidence to use their existing language skills, helping to overcome the challenges of running a course in English. A Chinese student wrote, ‘I had a great time these days. I will never forget nice foreign professor, so kind and perfect. Great foreign students – so kind too. This is greatest day.'

After a group photograph, everyone was straight down to work with three lectures, before lunch. two on basic glass science, given by Profs Alicia Durán and John Parker, and a third presented by Prof Russell Hand introduced this year's conference theme on ‘Glass for Nuclear Waste Immobilisation'. It was the students turn to speak in the afternoon, each giving a 10 minute presentation explaining their backgrounds and interests. This information was used in assigning project work and served to initiate networking. The afternoon session was closed by Prof Manoj Choudhary who talked on heat transfer in glass making.

For the next two days the school had two parallel sessions on 1) Glass formation, structure and properties and 2) Glasses for nuclear waste immobilisation. 22 students had registered for the first option and 16 for the second, but numbers for the nuclear option were boosted by 15 or so attendees from industry. Lecturers on the first stream were: Prof Reinhard Conradt, Prof Yuanzheng Yue, Prof John Parker, Prof Rene Vacher, Prof Bernard Hehlen, Prof Jinjun Ren, Prof Tars Kavetskyy, Prof Akira Takada, Prof Manoj Choudhary and Prof Michael Ojovan. The teaching on nuclear waste immobilisation was based on members of ICG's technical committee TC05 on Waste Vitrification (Prof Michael Ojovan, Dr Oliver Pinet, Dr Kevin Fox, Dr Hong Li, Prof Russell Hand, Mr Kevin Selkregg, Dr Mr Wei Zhang, Dr Mingzhou Chen and Dr Richard Pokorny). The two streams recombined for the last two days of the school which concentrated on thermodynamic calculations and Raman spectroscopy together with the presentations by the students of their project work.

There was a lively social side to the whole event to encourage networking. Coffee breaks were well provisioned with a variety of fresh fruit and cookies and conversation flowed. One of the responses to the end of school questionnaire confirmed that the students really welcomed the approachability of the lecturers on the course. On the Monday evening students and lecturers joined together for a sit-down meal at a Welcome Reception and again on the Thursday a Banquet was organised at a nearby restaurant. Each student attending the school had been given a copy of the ‘Teaching Glass Better' textbook recently published by ICG and the welcome reception provided an opportunity for students to have their copies signed.

A feature of all ICG schools is the involvement of students actively in the learning process. One of the lecturers who had not participated before commented after the event, ‘I am also impressed with how you included the students in the program'. One way of encouraging involvement was to stimulate the asking of questions. Anyone who asked a question was given a stamp on their notebook. The winning student achieved 6 questions and received a small prize on the last day. A new feature of the Science thread was a tutorial session based on written questions by the students submitted during the week. This gave the attendees the opportunity to apply the course content to their individual projects and the practical problems they were experiencing. The Nuclear stream adopted an alternative approach by running an extended round table discussion at the end of the last day of their thread.

The main activity though was the project work. Altogether the students were split into 8 groups with 4 or 5 in each team. The projects were very open ended to give them flexibility in creating a solution. Presentations were made on the last day, each group then had to answer searching questions posed by those present. Once all the presentations had been given the staff left the room to judge and rank what they had heard. Meanwhile the students themselves had to fill in a questionnaire on the course itself and they also formally received their certificates of attendance. In a brief ceremony Prof Alicia Durán was appointed as a Guest Professor of Wuhan University of Technology and finally it came to the announcement of the winning teams. Prof Reinhard Conradt as the chair of the group of teachers firstly congratulated everyone on an excellent set of presentations. Then he announced the outcome of the panel's deliberations. Third prize went to a group from the Nuclear theme. ‘You are members of ICG Technical Committee TC05. Design a round robin study to compare the long-term stability of different vitreous waste-forms.' Second and first prizes went to groups from the Basic Science thread. ‘The ICG wishes to apply to the United Nations to devote one year to celebrate the ‘Glass Age'. What do you think are the 5 most important contributions that glass makes to modern life? Explain your decision.' The winning team consisting of: Baochen Ma, Linfeng Ding, Zheng Zhang and Congyun Li and worked on the programme ‘Select the 3 best ways in which glass can help to reduce the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Indicate the magnitude of the reductions that are possible.' It also was announced that the 5th fifth ICG winter school will be held on Oct. 20th – 26th, 2019, at Wuhan University of Technology.

On the last afternoon, those staff and students remaining in Wuhan were given a tour of the Wuhan department followed by a trip to the East lake, the biggest in-city lake in China. Amazingly after a week of rain and just as we were leaving the warm autumnal weather returned and we were able to walk around the shores in bright sunshine. The long trip home allowed an examination of the questionnaires and it was clear that everyone had really enjoyed both the course content and the excellent standard of organisation of the event. This same reaction has been repeated many times since by those responsible for the teaching.

Last Updated: 21/12/2018
Author: John Parker
Labels: Icg News
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