Thanks to the HKUST Overseas Research Awards offered by our school and university, I am able to be a visiting research student for about 5 months at the Population Studies Center (PSC) at the University of Michigan. Thanks also to Prof. Yu Xie, who is my sponsor at the University of Michigan, I have access to research facilities here, including office space, computing facility, and access to library and internet resources.
I have been auditing two courses at the University of Michigan, namely Quantitative Methods I by Yu Xie at the Department of Sociology, and Labor Economics I by Mel Stephens and John Bound at the Department of Economics. I am also a regular member of Quantitative Sociology Workshop, and have participating in various seminars, e.g., QMP Methodology Seminar, PSC Seminar, PSID/CDS Seminar, PSC/SRC Seminar, and CCS Noon Lecture Series. I have presented some of my current researches in classes and group meetings, and have received helpful comments and suggestions from the audience. Besides my dissertation research and cooperative projects with Prof. Xiaogang Wu, I am also working on two new research projects with Yu Xie.
To me the most important experience here is the exposure to more diverse research topics. Our division is a strong research unit on studies of Chinese societies. I have benefited a lot from discussions with fellow students and faculty, and I am often impressed by their deep understanding about Chinese societies. By contrast, what I have learned most here are more of different perspectives and approaches.
Population Studies Center is one of the five centers at the Institute of Social Research (ISR), and the other four are Survey Research Center (SRC), Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), Research Center for Group Dynamics, and Center for Political Studies. ISR is a large research community with an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including sociologists, economists, demographers, public health researchers, statisticians, psychologists, etc. Some of the faculty knows much about data collection (Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its Child Development Supplement, and Health and Retirement Study are collected by SRC and ISR), many of them are methodologically sophisticated, and most importantly, they emphasize research designs and often offer insightful suggestions to students/faculty here who encounter methodological difficulties. It is an enjoyable experience to attend seminars here. Even though I may not be the person being offered suggestions, insightful thoughts sparkle in the scholarly exchanges.
I have also learned more about research on other countries, especially on U.S. society, and have been thinking about the possibility of similar research projects on China. The exposure to studies of other societies enables me to look beyond the Greater China when I think about existing research findings. China is not that unique once we embrace a comparative perspective; what is happening in China may have happened in earlier days of other countries, or is happening in other countries. Even if China has its own uniqueness, we need to situate our findings in a comparative context where we can dialogue with scholars working on other countries. To accomplish this we need to know more about what others have done in a different setting, and it should be one of the imperatives for my future studies.
I appreciate that I am offered the opportunity to be here, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with fellow students in our Division.
 Information about the workshop is available at: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/soc/events/quantitativesociologyworkshop
 QMP: Quantitative Methodology Program. Information about the seminar is available at: http://www.qmp.isr.umich.edu/disc_series_info.cfm
 PSID/CDS: Panel Studies of Income Dynamics / Child Development Supplement. Information about the seminar is available at: http://psidonline.isr.umich.edu/Publications/Seminar/
 PSC/SRC: Population Studies Center / Survey Research Center. Information about the seminar is available at: http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/events/bb-archive.html
 CCS: Center for Chinese Studies. Information about the seminar is available at: http://www.ii.umich.edu/ccs/eventsprograms/noonlectureseries