A Multi-Disciplinary Communication on Climate Change and Energy

By Dapeng Chen,

Tsinghua University

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims, the warming of the climate system is unequivocally supported by scientific evidence. It is a vital task of human beings to work out practical solutions and put them into real effect in this century. This year, the Imperial-Tsinghua Global Fellows Programme, co-organized by Imperial College London and Tsinghua University, focused on climate change and energy, through 5 days of intense communications and collaborations amongst early stage Ph.D. students in multiple disciplines from both universities. As a third year PhD candidate in finance, I was honoured to be part of the programme. It impressed me in three important aspects.

First, highly interactive and inspiring group challenges. We were separated into groups to take part in some well-designed interactive activities. In one, we had a simple collaborative task. It did not take long before all groups figured out an efficient way to achieve it, but suddenly, the coaches made some alterations. We soon started conversations, built up mutual trust and carried on with the task. This challenge put me in deep thought and reminded me of my own experience of joining a new research project two years ago. Such changes had put me under huge pressure but I finally managed to fit into my new surroundings. Positive communications and active adaptations are the keys to successful accommodation in a new research project with new collaborators.

Second, jargon-free academic communications. With the poster fair, we got opportunities to learn about each other’s research while improving our own presentation skills to tell research ideas to a general audience. The students are indeed from a variety of disciplines, from chemistry to electrical engineering to arts and design. I had my doubts at the very beginning over how we should present academic research to someone not in the area. But luckily, the organizers put an emphasis on “no jargon” and everyone followed it. With a finance and economics background, I found little difficulty in understanding presentations about electricity generating systems or ultrasound therapy to cure cancer. Also, I followed the very useful researcher pack provided by the programme to frame a presentation in an academic way: from the question it aims to answer, to the impact it may have, to its methodology and how it is related to climate change.

Third, remarkable collaborative research proposal presentations. For the final presentation on collaborative research, we chose teammates and came up with our own research ideas to offer possible solutions to climate change. In my team, we had one engineer, one policy research expert, one business model analyst and one financial analyst. We set up a research plan to evaluate the economic and political feasibility of substituting coal with natural gas in China’s energy consumption, via a new pipeline system. Shortly after our presentation, on July 12th, the National Development and Reform Commission in China released a report on “medium to long term plan over oil and gas pipeline system”. Although there seems to be not much causality here, we are glad that what we aimed to research into is actually what the government cares about. Other teams’ presentations were also more than great, of which a particularly interesting one was a video game incorporating data simulations about global climate change and providing players with realistic experiences of the catastrophes caused by global warming. I would definitely invest in this game if I were a venture capitalist.

All in all, the 5-day program was a most rewarding experience for me. Besides the training and academic communications, I made quite a few nice friends. I want to offer my special thanks to my teammates. They encouraged me to be bold in expressing my ideas whenever I wanted to shy away. Also I’m grateful for their company every morning when jogging around the most beautiful Easthampstead Park area.

Next July, the Ninth Imperial-Tsinghua Global Fellows Programme will be held in Tsinghua University. Looking forward to seeing you in Beijing, an enjoyable city with rich history, friendly people, tasty food and numerous places of interests to visit.