What’s the first thing you do if you’re an American scientist who has just arrived in China on a prestigious fellowship? You get tested for COVID…and then again and again while you hang out by yourself for two weeks in quarantine. Then, if you’re Matthew Kohn, a distinguished professor in the Department of Geosciences at Boise State, you start writing about how you came to be sitting in a hotel room by yourself in China, which eventually becomes an entertaining and educational travelogue titled, “Tested: Adventures of an American Scientist in Pandemic China.”
“The book is meant to be entertaining,” Kohn said, “but it also contains some serious scientific content.” The book reads like a conversation between friends, Kohn said, and demonstrates not only how a scientist observes the world, but also how scientists can have a fantastic sense of humor, especially when navigating both U.S. and Chinese bureaucracies.
Kohn visited China from July through December 2021 with the support of the President’s International Fellowship Initiative from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. While there, he gave lectures at the academy, the U.S. embassy and several local universities. These lectures focused on climate change through the geological perspective and on his research on the evolution of the plate tectonic collision between India and Asia. He also collaborated with Professors Xiaochi Liu and Huixia Ding, who had both previously presented their research in the U.S. as visiting scientists at Boise State, and developed new collaborations with several other faculty.
Kohn sincerely questions some current U.S. policies that could enforce harsh penalties for this kind of cross-cultural research and collaboration among international scientists, especially an American scientist in China. His writing about this larger context is balanced with detailed observations and stories about living in China for several months during unusual times. Ultimately, his book encourages the reader to consider how much we truly have to learn from one another, no matter the many ways we can be tested in foreign environments.
From the back of the book:
In this entertaining but educational travelogue, Dr. Kohn documents his seven-month escapades getting to China, traveling around the country, and returning to the US, and guides us through the streets and markets of Shanghai, the parks and museums of Beijing, and the countryside of northern and central China, where he explores different foods, daily life, and scientific perspectives. Discover with him the “joys” of Beijing hospitals, the taste of donkey meat and barbecue silkworm, the value of ginkgo trees, and the Chinese passion for science. An engaging read for anyone who likes travel, adventurous dining, or science.
Book signing event in Boise May 2, 2023
“Tested: Adventures of an American Scientist in Pandemic China” can be found in local bookstores in Boise and online. Readers can get a signed copy of the book from the author from 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2, at Rediscovered Books located at 180 N. 8th Street, downtown Boise.