From furniture industry to a biofuel expert - after working in the international sales of a furniture company for some time, Jie Zhong wanted to continue studies and learn more about wood as a versatile raw material. And he wanted to learn specifically in Finland, which is a country that he sees as the ultimate forerunner in forestry. He found the University of Eastern Finland and the Master’s degree programme in Wood Materials Science – and also his future ambition, as he just reorganised his study plan to focus on biofuels.
Helping the world to get rid of fossil fuels
Before applying to the Master’s Degree Programme in Wood Materials Science (WMS), Jie had completed a Bachelor’s degree in Wood Engineering and Science in his home country, China. Whereas Jie’s background is more on the mechanical side of forestry industry, the approach in the WMS programme is chemistry-oriented.
The different bio-based materials are analysed on miniature scale: the precious polymers and nanomaterials that can be the basis for whole new products and solutions. Other possible focus areas are e.g. chemicals or energy production from renewable sources.
But Jie got interested in one specific topic – and now there’s no going back.
Doing something about the environment is an important motivator for me, so I got really interested in the biofuel industry.
–The world puts a lot of hope on biofuels in resolving climate change issues in the near future. However, I’m not only interested in the environmental side of them, but also how biofuels can actually be more cost-efficient than fossil fuels. I believe that is the key to achieving proper results from climate change actions.
Also, in Jie’s home county, China, the interest in bioeconomy has increased, and Jie wants to be in the forefront and learn from the best – and maybe someday go back home to promote the change for the better.
–I see that Finland is already very advanced in this field, compared to developing countries. It’s good for me to learn beforehand, gain knowledge from this Master’s programme as well as hopefully through work experience either in Finland or somewhere in Europe.
Adjusting the study plan
After finding the right track, Jie was happy to find out that help was at hand, when he was wondering how to manage his course selection.
–I was a bit unsure what to focus on when I started, and I took many courses that I thought would be useful. But when I wanted to change my focus, I just booked an appointment with our professor, who advised me on my choice of courses; like what are the topics that I can learn elsewhere and what are the essentials that I can learn only at UEF.
The world-renowned expertise on forestry is actually the thing that drew Jie to Finland and UEF in the first place.
–I applied to several universities in the Nordics. I was accepted to four, but I chose the UEF, because the WMS programme was the most interesting of all. I’m very happy with my choice.
Getting accustomed to student life, again
Although for Jie, going back to student life after working for 1,5 years in the furniture industry required a little bit of preparation.
–I participated in the UEF Summer School in August, just to programme my mind into study mood again. It was a really good way to adapt, both in Finland and in the university circles.
At the moment of the interview, the first semester is running towards its end. It includes a lot of compulsory courses on the basics – and a lot of group work, which is different than Jie has used to in his home country.
–In China, it’s more about lectures and exams, and for your Master’s degree you have to publish a scientific article. It can be very stressful. Here we have group work and presentations on almost every course. At first it was hard for me and I was nervous, because I felt hat I’m not the best at expressing my knowledge in English which is not my mother tongue. But after a while, it begins to feel easier and easier.
Overall, adapting into the Finnish way of life has been easy for Jie.
–I like everything else about Finland, except the food – it’s so very different. In the beginning I used to cook for myself, but now I’ve eaten at the cafeteria and slowly getting used to it.
What Jie especially values is safety.
–I was studying in Oregon, US for a few months, where I never went out in the dark. Here you feel really safe and comfortable. You can focus on your studies, and there’s no need to worry about daily life.