Professor Mark Bartlam. (COURTESY PHOTO)
By LONG Yun & BI Weizi
His story with China began with "a personal connection between the University of Oxford and China", and he still has vivid memories of his first visit to Beijing on "an extremely cold winter day".
Professor Mark Bartlam is a prominent British scientist who specializes in biochemistry and molecular biology. He is currently a professor at Nankai University's College of Life Sciences.
According to Bartlam, the career opportunities and strong support for academic research from the Chinese government were the two major reasons that convinced him to settle in China 20 years ago.
Lessons learned from the past
Bartlam worked on the frontlines of the fight against the SARS outbreak back in 2002, being part of the joint research group in structural biology at Tsinghua University. The group successfully discovered the world's first SARS coronavirus protein structure, laying an essential foundation for the discovery of anti-SARS drugs.
Meanwhile, Bartlam has offered insight into the study and development of anti-COVID-19 drugs based on his prior experience and extensive research. He said that according to what he has read, there are highly encouraging indicators for the global development of anti-COVID-19 drugs. He is very encouraged by the fact that several Chinese medications have performed exceptionally well in clinical testing, indicating strong potential.
Although Bartlam is optimistic about the development progress of the drugs, he emphasized that researchers worldwide need to keep monitoring new strains variants, so as to make sure that the drugs that are available, or are being developed, remain effective.
"I was in Beijing when the SARS outbreak emerged in 2002 and 2003. So it was a privilege to be part of that group to be involved in this particular research," he said, adding that one of the most important things that humans learned from the SARS pandemic is that the scientific community should continue funding research into viruses and infectious diseases.
China's effective combating COVID-19 policy
Bartlam utilized his personal experiences to laud China's anti-COVID-19 campaign when commenting on China's Dynamic Zero -COVID Policy. "I have seen the pandemic from both China and the UK," he said, adding that as COVID-19 is a global health crisis, policies against the pandemic must be tailored to specific countries.
"I think the policy employed by the Chinese government has proven effective in many ways," he said.
He spoke highly of China's capacity to do rapid nucleic acid testing and implement contact tracing, both of which are efficient elements to contain the pandemic. In addition, he considers that the local isolation campaign is also an efficient approach to suppressing cases in specific areas.
Communication, the most important skill for scientists
As a scientist and an educator, Bartlam strongly believes the most important skill for a scientist is communication. As a result, he organized a course for Nankai University students called "scientific writing and presentation".
According to Bartlam, the ultimate objective is to help the students write better papers so that they can get their research to a wider audience. In a sense, academic communication skills can deliver their messages to the general public as well as the sci-tech community, stimulating more exchanges, which could provide them with better career opportunities.
He sincerely hopes the course will help the excellent talent in Nankai University to further improve their research capacity and put it into a broader context, so that they have a more comprehensive understanding of their research and its significance.
International cooperation, a vital part of science
As a scientist who has worked in various countries, Bartlam said that international cooperation is a vital part of science. He mentioned two potential approaches of collaboration. One is the academic platform for scientists to publish articles, exchange ideas and gain different perspectives.
The second approach is to successfully access resources that are unevenly distributed in our world. "Without international cooperation, science would be much more difficult. Moreover, the pace of scientific progress would be much slower," said Bartlam.
He has played an active role in the international scientific community and helped promote Nankai University as a world-leading university. He is actively involved in cooperation with his peers around the world. Additionally, he is assisting the university to establish cooperations with universities in the UK, such as University of Glasgow and University of Liverpool.