Chemical attraction

Updated: 2011-06-03 11:15

By Alexandra Leyton Espinoza (China Daily European Weekly)

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"I try to tell young students to follow their ideas and try to realize them. If they have dreams that are difficult, they have to take the risk to maybe fail. But quite often if it doesn't happen at once, it will just drive you further, by not always taking the easiest path," she says.

She surely didn't. With her husband still living in Norway, Kveseth moved to Beijing on her own on a two-year contract instead of retiring. Her friends and family thought she was crazy.

"They wonder why I don't stay in Norway, go skiing, sit at home and get my pension. But I can't. And the fact that most of my family are in Norway gives me the opportunity to concentrate on work," she says.

On the other hand Kveseth has had time to grasp the Chinese culture, since her son, his Chinese wife and her two grandchildren live in Beijing. She calls herself a Chinese grandmother that prefers jogging in the park to doing taichi.

The opportunity to develop research relationships in China was serendipitous: China and Norway signed a political agreement in 2008 to increase cooperation between the ministries of research and higher education.

"My job is to be a bridge builder between science in Norway and science in China. To follow that agreement into daily workable actions," she says.

The Norwegian counselor for science in China cooperates with ministries in both countries as well as with other agencies and institutions of science and higher education in China.

"We have similar areas of priority like energy research, different energy systems for the future, as well as in general to establish cooperation with different strong research groups in universities," she says.

Kveseth says carbon capture storage (CCS) is a big challenge Beijing and Oslo are eager to tackle. Both countries are investing heavily in this area.

"We have to do something with the CO2 emissions globally. Norway doesn't have this problem, since our electricity production comes from hydro power plants," she says.

"But globally we have a responsibility to contribute to the development of more environmentally friendly energy production.

"We have to work together internationally in these issues and find solutions, the future has to build on modern systems that makes energy production more efficient and more sustainable. Cooperation with China in this area is a very promising step."

A more strategic cooperation is with the biggest universities in China and Norway: Visualize what is going on now and how it's going to be in the future. "And there is no better place to share visions and establish relationships than in the top schools of the country," she says.

She has found the first year of her contract to be interesting and challenging. "If things are difficult, I love it! The Chinese sports brand Li-Ning has a slogan: 'Anything is Possible'. I am a great believer in that: The more difficult, the more challenging, the greater is my drive," she says.

"I am by nature an inquisitive person," she said in an interview published in the Research Council newsletter after her move to China. "This spirit of enquiry has meant that I am interested in most research fields and has allowed me access to many exciting processes."

In her early years, she says, she found an outlet for her curiosity in the forest terrain of Nordmarka outside Oslo.

As a young woman she was a scout leader and was always keen to take her patrol on adventurous expeditions. Her former scouts describe her as a tough, but likeable, patrol leader.

Once when the patrol was in the mountains they woke up to find the camp covered in a thin layer of snow.

The scout girls stormed into her tent and yelled: "Kari, it's snowing!" And from the depths of Kari's sleeping bag they heard the muffled, sleepy reply: "Well then, whittle yourselves some skis."

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