Quintiles, Tsinghua University and the Opening Ceremony

We had an amazing day on Friday, August 8 —

It began with an early morning meeting at the office and lab of Quintiles here in Beijing.

Quintiles was founded by Dennis Gillings when he was a UNC School of Public Health faculty member. It is now the largest contract research organization in the world, with people and facilities around the globe, and is based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Dennis and his wife, Joan, have also endowed the UNC School of Public Health and dramatically enhanced the School's capabilities — especially in global health.

Peter Coclanis, associate provost for international affairs, Tom Martineau and I met with Lai-Lee Tan, the head of the China office; Claire Tan, director of biostatistics; and Susan Sun, the lab manager.


We learned about their extensive clinical trials work in China and other countries of this region. What they showed us was really impressive — and we surely appreciated their coming into the office to host us on this day, August 8, 2008, which was a national holiday in China and the opening day for the Olympic Games.

Then we went to Tsinghua University, which is located right next to the campus of Peking University where we are staying. Tsinghua has a long tradition of excellence in science and engineering, and is sometimes described as the MIT of China. It and PKU are rivals for being seen as the top ranked university in the country — and the parallels to the MIT – Harvard relationship are evident.

Tsinghua now has a business school, law school and medical school. We met with Professor Chen Jining, the executive vice president of TU. With him were Xia Guangzhi, the deputy director of the office of international cooperation and exchange, and Dr. Fang-Lin Sun, head of research for their medical school.

We had wide ranging conversations about the opportunities for partnership and exchange between UNC and Tsinghua University. They already have relationships with several U.S. universities and seemed quite interested in exploring faculty and student interactions with us. We will be organizing a follow-up meeting right away.

Topics of interest include information science, nanoscience, environmental science and many areas of medicine.

Then last evening we went to the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Will and I were guests of Lenovo, the Beijing-based computer and information technology company.

Will and me at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.
Will and me at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.

Lenovo has its U.S. operations headquartered in Research Triangle Park, N.C. They bought the IBM personal computer operations there a few years ago. I met the Chairman of Lenovo with Chancellor Moeser several months ago.

It would take me hours to write an adequate description of what we saw. But I have a few observations:

The Olympic Stadium and other facilities are magnificent.

The artistic performance in the Opening Ceremony was like the grandest Super Bowl halftime show — times ten!

The athletes — all 10,000 of them — were fun and lively, but there were so many of them!!!

The Chinese people are hugely proud to be hosting the Games.

A runner bringing the flame in to light the big torch at the end of the Opening Ceremony.
Torch Runner

Opening Ceremony performance — a large globe that came up from the floor of the stadium.

We got back to our lodging at around 2 a.m. — a very full and rewarding day!

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