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Post by Peter Ivatt, University of York

As a modeller, day to day life consists of sitting in a comfy chair looking at an array of screens filled with programming, graphs, blinking terminals and maybe a little bit of Sky Sports News in the corner. We look at regional to global grids, over months, years and decades monitoring many chemical species at a time. Then it comes to evaluating the model and we receive this gapped data for a random couple of months, filled with signals from all sorts of emissions. After sorting all this data that arrives in myriad of different formats and layouts we sigh and look out the window, listening to our colleagues complaining about the stresses of travelling to these amazing far flung parts of the globe.

However, after spending time in Beijing I now have a new-found respect for the difficulties and frustrations faced by our colleagues in the field. When we stepped off the plane after 24 hours of travelling, a wall of 38°C heat welcomed us. Weary eyed we checked into the hotel that our colleagues call home for 8 weeks. The research site was not a working environment I am used to, consisting of metal shipping containers kitted out with state of the art equipment. The air conditioning units given the heroic task of keeping these metal boxes cool in the fierce Beijing sun were, unfortunately, failing the good fight. Inside the containers the temperature was rising past 40 °C; so hot that the plastic pens started to warp and distort. In this inhospitable environment, constant care was given to the equipment to prevent it going offline. Finding fittings to add a second air conditioning unit soon also proved an issue. However, one helpful shop keeper, some hand waving, an unusual plumbing fitting and a bit of creativity, later the room was bearable again. A few more hours of changing filters on a sun-baked roof, 5 litres of water, one suspect meal later and we were back at the hotel. Over dinner I was told that some researches were returning to the site in the early hours of the morning for night experiments. All in all, it was a humbling experience. A combination of “one chance to get it right” coupled with the time and money invested, creates a recipe for stress and frustration. After all there is no “repeat simulation” button in real life.

Post by Will Drysdale, University of York

aeroplane food

According to the omnipotent Google maps, our base in Beijing is some 4,960 miles from my front door. If that wasn’t daunting enough, the route to get there consisted of a combination of several buses, planes, trains and cars, with a journey time of some 15 hours. The duration, on balance, is rather impressive, since the fastest the British national rail service can cover the ~400 miles to take me home at Christmas is 8 hours!

The journey broke down something like this:

  • Bus to the York station – pretty easy, a journey I have made many times before.
  • Train to Manchester airport – again, not too taxing having completed a very similar trip only a week prior.

Post by Rutambhara Joshi, University of Manchester

Fixing Water

My PhD is all about black carbon aerosols (soot particles) and their sources in Beijing. A month into my 1st year of PhD I was sent to Beijing for the winter season measurements, followed by the second visit for summer measurements in May 2017. In total I have spent 3 months in Beijing, making Holiday Inn, Minzuyuan my home away from home.

I was involved in running two different kits at the IAP site, one for ground measurements and the other for measurements from the IAP tower. A typical day would start with having breakfast at the hotel, initially I was having noodles for breakfast but after having noodles for every possible meal that got old very soon and cereal became a luxury.

 

 

Post by Steven Thomson, University of Birmingham

Chamber Repairs

It was a warm morning at the IAP site when my supervisor Zongbo came to take me to the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Science (CRAES) for the first time. We went to the nearby metro station and joined the hordes of people boarding the busy train. Once we arrived at CRAES we walked to the other side of the campus to our meeting, we introduced ourselves and I pulled out a lab book to take notes. This however is when I realised that the entire meeting would be in Chinese; I spent the rest of the meeting scrolling through the talking points that were projected onto the board. After the meeting my supervisor gave me a brief summary of what was discussed, we went for lunch in the cafeteria where I played a game of guessing what meat was in each dish (I did eventually lose and took a bite out of something described as ‘like tofu but not’).

Post by Louise Corscadden, University of Leicester

In recent years, the scientific and global community as a whole have become more aware the threat of antibiotic resistance in China. The latest resistance scare to come out of China is the colistin resistance gene mcr-1. Colistin is a polmyxin antibiotic which the media fondly calls one of our “last resort” antibiotics. This refers to a group of antibiotics usually reserved for highly resistant bacterial infections which are resistant to multiple antibiotics. Before 2015, colistin resistance had only ever been found to be due to genetic chromosomal mutations such as inactivation of mgrB in Klebsiella pneumoniae (Cannatelli et al. 2013) or mutations in various genes in Acinetobacter baumannii. Chromosomal mutations cannot be passed between bacteria via genetic exchange without being first inserted onto a mobile gene sequence and therefore cannot spread easily. However, mcr-1 is spread using mobile gene sequences amongst bacteria via genetic exchange and already has been doing, we assume, for decades as this gene has been located in samples as early as the 1980’s (Skov and Monnet., 2016).