Made in China
Drawn to Beijing by talk of rapid economic development, Spanish scientist Mario Lanza has found freedom, opportunity and a place to call home
'Made in China" is a label of Mario Lanza, a scientific researcher from Spain living in Beijing, is happy to be tagged with. Having come to work at Peking University (PKU) as a final year PhD student three years ago, and now a scientist, Lanza says he is thankful to the country he has made his home.
Mario Lanza at PKU Library (Photo by: Cui Meng)
"I'm a made-in-China scientist, because many things that I have learned, I learned here," he says.
Lanza, 30, obtained a degree in electronic engineering in 2006 and a PhD in electronics in 2010 at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
With fluent Spanish, Catalan, English, German and Mandarin he then worked at the University of Applied Sciences in Deggendorf, Germany, and at the University of Manchester in England, before heading to Stanford University in the US, where he combined research with teaching computer science, telecommunications engineering and electronic engineering.
In 2009 he made his move to China on a 400 euro a month scholarship, despite having been offered better paid scholarships elsewhere.
"At that time, everyone was talking about China, saying it would become an economic leader in a few years, so I thought maybe it is the time to come here."
The China he saw on arrival was quite different to what he had expected, with excellent laboratory equipment, sometimes better than that of prestigious Western universities.
"In my case, the best laboratory for my experiments and to receive funding is PKU, better than in England or the US."
In China there are a lot of funding opportunities for young scientists, which are not channeled towards the most senior researchers, but to the most promising, he says.
"In my university in China, all the researchers have equal opportunities to apply for funds. Whether they can get them relies on the potential of the program, not the seniority of the researcher."
Lanza also appreciates the freedom and encouragement he receives.
"In my own country I cannot suggest many times to the professor what new research we should conduct; I just need to hear his advice. Here, a lot of times, my professor has asked me what I want to do now. I feel much freer to do what I want, at least in the group I work with."
He found the language barrier and cultural differences a problem when he first arrived in China, but has learned to deal with them, by learning to speak Mandarin and adapting to his new work environment.
He has also learnt the importance of guanxi, or relationships, in China.
"If you want to do something and make something work, you have to meet and talk to the right person.
"In my own country, the researchers usually only know the people their professor knows, or people of the same group. Here I have the possibility to meet more people, including some of the most brilliant scientists in the world."
Last July Lanza received a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation, which gives him the necessary funds to develop competitive research.
In 2011 he was awarded with the Research Fund for International Young Scientists, he is the principal investigator of three funded projects from the National Science Foundation of China, and also with other prestigious institutions such as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
Since July 2011 he has published four research papers, participated in three conferences, developed one patent and supervised the work of Chinese and foreign students.
"Working in China we normally finish our projects with more passion than we would back home," he says.
"For example, we cooperate with colleagues, but here I also have the possibility to talk to people from other institutes by myself. This is something I wouldn't do in my home country."
Duan Huiling, Lanza's professor, is impressed by his attitude.
"He is creative, effective and passionate in his scientific research," she says.
"He always comes to talk to me about his new ideas and research results. He's also well-disciplined."
Lu Pengyu, who works in the same laboratory, says Lanza is passionate about work and life generally. "Sometimes Chinese students can be very introverted or conventional, but he always encourages us to try new things."
Moreover, because of differences in culture and modes of thinking, Lanza provides them with some refreshing ideas, he says.
Lanza's plan is to have a permanent position in a Chinese university and have his own research group. But competition is fierce, mostly from Chinese students who have studied overseas.
"Now China is giving money to attract foreigners to come here. China wants to attract talent from abroad, so this is a very good environment for us to come and stay here now".
Within two years he intends to apply for the One Thousand Foreign Experts Project, which the Chinese government launched last year.
In the project, 500 to 1,000 high-end non-Chinese professionals are invited to work in China, with the aim being to promote innovation and scientific research.
For Lanza, this is the next step and something he is working hard to achieve.
"I'm not here for leisure, I'm here for work."
Reported by: Chen Yingqun
Source: China Daily
Edited by: Arthars