Date of the interview
Why did you decide to study Environment and Energy at Rhine-Waal University in Kamp-Lintfort?
To be honest, I did not choose to study Environment and Energy first when I was making the decision to study in Germany. As Germany is famous for its cars, I, naturally, chose to study Mechanical Engineering; many others may have done the same. During the first semester of study in Kleve, I felt that it was not something I was really interested in. At that time, I went to Kamp-Lintfort quite often to visit several friends of mine who were studying Environment and Energy, and I had chances to listen to their lectures. I truly felt that this was something I would like to discover more after attending some more lectures. I finally made the decision to change my study programme to Environment and Energy with careful consideration of my own interest and future career prospects.
Looking back now, I still think I made the right decision for myself. I have to say that Environment and Energy is a unique English-taught programme at HSRW, since it is normally either Environmental Science or Energy Engineering at other universities. It was an innovative thought to combine these two together into one study programme. Environment and energy are two crucial parameters that influence our societies and the development of the economy for any country in the world. They are mutually restricted, yet interact with each other, which makes it is important to study them together and understand the interlinkings. This may help us to find a way to produce energy without sacrifiing blue skies and fresh air.
I had so much fun and made many new friends while staying in Kamp-Lintfort. My time studying in Germany was unforgettable, and it created the foundation for what I have today.
After graduating you stayed in academia, pursuing a master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Engineering at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Can you tell us about your reasons for continuing with an academic career?
During my undergraduate studies, I came to understand the importance of the environment and the issues we face with energy production. One motivating factor was my personal interests: I wanted to learn more and go deeper into the energy field. Another factor was due to the experience I had during the practical semester at Fraunhofer UMSICHT in Oberhausen. The internship was about catalytic upgrading of pyrolysis vapours derived from agriculture waste (straw) to produce bio-oil, which could be used as fuel for airplanes or heavy ships. I first did my internship there, after that I wrote my bachelor’s thesis, and finally I continued working there as a student assistant up until I left Germany for Sweden and my master’s degree programme. The working experience further cemented my desire to discover more in the energy field, especially renewable energies. I really hope that I can contribute to the energy transition of the future.
Please tell us more about the research topic of your master thesis that you are writing in cooperation with the Gustave Eiffel University in Paris.
Energy recovery is another way to increase energy use efficiency. The research I am doing here at Gustave Eiffel University is all about a newly designed and patented polymer heat exchanger for heat or cold recovery from wastewater. Compared to conventional heat exchangers, this polymer heat exchanger combines high flexibility, low cost, and ease of construction. However, as it is new, very little is known empirically about its actual performance. My work is to study its characteristics, then test and analyse its performance under different conditions in a laboratory environment. There will be an on-site case study to investigate the efficiency of the heat exchanger in a real underground sewage pipe as well.
The future of this polymer heat exchanger is promising. It can be used for HVAC&R (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration) applications to provide thermal comfort in building environments. For example, it could be used to cool homes in Europe during summer heat waves, as air conditioners are not widely used.
Which career path do you intend to follow after you have completed your master’s degree?
My current plan is to find a job in Europe after I have completed my master’s. I would like to work in the renewable energy industry, whether at a wind turbine company, solar energy company, or even conventional energy producer looking to transition towards renewables. Germany is the pioneer in Europe in terms of the share of renewables in total energy production, and I know Germany better than any other country in Europe. Therefore, it is the first country on my list in which I would like to work. Similar countries, like the Netherlands and Denmark, are also high on my list. I am currently applying for jobs while writing my master’s thesis. Wish me luck!
If you had to give one piece of advice to prospective and current Environment and Energy students, what would it be?
Follow your heart and work hard. But there is more than one piece of advice that I would like to share.
For prospective students, you should carefully read the introduction to the study programme on the HSRW webpage and ask yourself, “is this what I really want to learn?”, “is this what I would like to work on in my career?”. If your answers are YES, congratulations! You have made a great choice.
For current students, it is time to work hard. I knew that it is not easy to graduate on time with good grades, but it is not impossible. Here are some things you can do:
1) Ask for help from professors or the Student Service Centre if you have any problems in your life, especially for international students. It is not easy to live abroad alone initially; you can focus on your studies only if you have a clear head.
2) Pay attention in lectures and take full advantage of exercise sessions to answer remaining questions.
3) Do not miss out on any internship opportunity. Internships are so important because they not only deepen your knowledge of what you learned at university, but also guide you towards the right career path.
4) For international students, study German starting now if you intend to stay in Germany after your studies. Take advantage of living in Germany and improve your German level. It will, for sure, increase your chances of getting an internship or job. Moreover, it makes your daily life easier and helps you adapt more quickly to your new surroundings.
What is your favourite memory of your student time at Rhine-Waal?
I have so many good memories while studying at HSRW. I would like to talk about one of them in particular: the interdisciplinary project in the fifth semester. I still remember the moment when all students studying in Kamp-Lintfort gathered in the Audimax to listen to the kick-off presentation held by professors to introduce all the topics that could be chosen for the project. It was my first time seeing that many students in one place after the opening ceremony before the first semester starts. I really like this way of teaching that allows students from different study programmes to work together to complete the same project. The topic I chose was “Microplastics in the Oceans”. In the group, everybody was trying to contribute something to the project from what they had learned. Another Chinese student in the group and I conducted a survey to learn Chinese people’s opinions on microplastics and compare the results with the survey conducted among Germans by two other members in the group. Finally, with everyone’s effort, we completed a 200 pages report that covered almost all aspects of the topic of microplastics. We were so proud of ourselves.