Penn State, Peking University renew academic, research partnership

June 10, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) earlier this year with Peking University (PKU) — a commitment to continuing what has been one of the University's most productive partnerships.

Few universities are as prestigious in China as PKU, said Rose Tan, Penn State’s global engagement coordinator for Asia.

“It’s like the Chinese Harvard,” said Tan, “It’s one of the most prestigious Chinese institutions. Chinese students grow up dreaming of attending Beida (Chinese translation of Peking University)."

Formally, the partnership began in 2011 with the original signing of an MOU. Subsequently, several college-level agreements were signed in areas of education abroad, joint graduate education, and joint research centers and collaboration. The various activities undertaken by the two universities cross disciplines and colleges.

“PKU has been one of our most productive partnerships,” Tan said. “Continuing with the partnership was an easy decision.”

In the realm of education abroad, Penn State's Department of Biology offers a unique 400-level Biology of Cancer course at Peking over summer sessions. This course has been offered since 2010; it not only provides biology students the opportunity to gain study-abroad experience in China, it also fulfills a core 400-level requirement for these students. Penn State students and students from Peking University are all placed in the same class, which is taught in English.

The Department of Physics offers joint graduate education with PKU. Students are assigned two advisers, one from Penn State and one from PKU, and at the end of the program, receive a master's degree from Penn State and a doctorate from PKU. So far, 10 students have entered the program, and the hope is to have more, said Tan.

In the realm of research, Penn State and PKU have produced over 170 joint publications since 2011. Penn State and PKU also share two joint research centers.

The Joint Research Center for Computational Mathematics and Applications (CCMA) is a joint effort of Penn State’s Eberly College of Science and Peking’s Schools of Mathematics and Engineering. The center, which has been in existence since 2012, already has some impressive projects, including a research project with Petro-China, a Chinese National Science Foundation grant, and a joint doctorate training program.

The Smart Sensing Lab is a collaboration between Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and Peking University’s School of Software and Microelectrics. The center has weekly remote meetings and has also received funding for a project from the Chinese NSF.

More research collaborations are ongoing, including in the areas of quantum physics, engineering and biology, as well as a project focused on energy in the College of Engineering.

“We’re excited to see how far and wide this partnership can go,” said Tan.

For more information on the Penn State-PKU partnership, contact Tan at

Last Updated June 21, 2019