Shaniqua Jones, left, Christine Mba and Whitney Nicole Russell spent more than three weeks in China participating in an international research project. Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Three Tennessee State University students this summer combined education with leisure for an exciting visit thousands of miles across the globe.

Shaniqua Jones, Christine Mba and Whitney Nicole Russell, all senior STEM majors, spent part of their summer in China participating in an international research experience on the “Development of Next Generation Biomaterials for Dental Bone Reconstruction/Regeneration.”

Jones, Mba and Russell are part of the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program at TSU. They joined students from the University of Memphis in a research collaboration between UofM and faculty and students at Donghua University in Shanghai. An internal review team in the UofM College of Engineering selected the TSU students to participate. The visit lasted from June 4-29.

In addition to Shanghai, the group also visited Beijing, the Chinese capital, and toured entertainment, cultural and historic places like religious shrines and temples, the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.

“It was a fun experience,” said Russell, a biology major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “I gained a lot of insight on things I didn’t know.”

Jones, a mechanical engineering major from Toledo, Ohio, who has been recognized as a “Dean Scholar Researcher” for advancement in engineering research, said the summer experience helped in her quest to understand global engineering and medical problems.

Dr. Lonnie Sharpe, dean of the College of Life and Physical Sciences, said the China trip was part of the university’s effort to engage students in international experience, not only in research, but also to expose them to the world around them.

“We are excited about our students going, and we are glad that great things came out of the trip,” Sharpe said.

Dr. Dee Green is the director of the TLSAMP program at TSU. She said international research experiences, such as the China project, provide visiting undergraduate students the opportunity to “engage in high quality collaborative research” with mentorship from researchers at a host lab. The experience is also a motivation for participants to pursue graduate studies, Green said.

“The exposure also broadens our students’ cultural awareness, professional development and networking skills,” she said.

Before leaving for China, Mba, a biology major from Memphis, Tennessee, with interest in a cure for cancer, said her research and lab experiences have helped her navigate and understand different laboratory settings and protocols with ease.

“I look forward to the opportunity to conduct research alongside experienced professors in China, while expanding my knowledge base and gaining an enhanced perspective of the culture,” she said.

Russell added that the visit gave them a better understanding of the people and culture of China.

“The professors and students we worked with were extraordinarily nice,” she said.  “They helped us engage in the culture and were just very welcoming.”