2nd IIES Graduate Students Forum (Asia)

Catching Up with Peers on Environmental Research & Graduate Student Life

Pictures and text By Verena Sesin (PhD, Trent University)

Following the success of the 1st IIES Graduate Students Forum Asia last fall, this year’s 2nd Annual forum was again hosted on the beautiful campus of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, from November 1-3, 2018. This year’s theme was “Soil Contamination & Remediation and Water Contamination & Management”. With close to 40 graduate students attending from China, Europe and North America, the 2nd Annual Forum attracted many more participants, while still being small enough to allow for everyone to meet in person and chat about research and graduate student life in their home country.

As a scientific program, students presented their current graduate research in a 10-minute talk. The talks covered various topics, thanks to the diverse group of students coming from different disciplines in the field of environmental science. We heard about water and soil contamination with heavy metals, organic pollutants, pathogens and pharmaceuticals, with a focus on understanding the pollutant’s fate and finding promising remediation approaches. The talks were followed by discussions in small groups, during which everyone could share advice on how to write a good scientific paper, how to get along with supervisors, and how to manage time well. It was great to see such lively discussions among students and professors!

Short stories: Get to know who was at the forum – maybe it’s you next year?

We asked a couple of students to briefly share with you what their research topic is, what motivates them to pursue their graduate studies, and how they think this forum can benefit their studies:

Nichen Zhang, Masters student, Sun Yat-sen University: 

“I am studying the remediation of phenolic compounds from soil by rhizosphere microbes. My aim is to help to solve human health problems related to soil contamination. If soil is contaminated, we can be exposed through the food we are growing in it. I see myself as a ‘soil doctor’, improving human health by finding techniques to reduce human exposure to pollutants. This forum was a great chance to talk about my research goals and to improve my presentation skills. I could learn a lot from everyone’s presentations, in particular how to begin and end a talk.”

Ran Yin, PhD student, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology: 

“As an environmental engineer, I am looking to find new processes to improve water treatment. My research is focusing on the removal of micropollutants and the control of by-product formation in water by the UV-LED/Chlorine Advanced Oxidation Process. Doing my PhD is not only about being a researcher but also about learning how to supervise other students and collaborate with different groups all over China – a really diverse life. I enjoy solving environmental problems while interacting with people from all over the world. This forum was a fantastic opportunity to meet and share ideas with different people. I was able to practice communicating and discussing with an international audience.”

Timo Ilo, PhD student, University of Eastern Finland: 

“My current research assesses the environmental risks of chemicals in effluents discharged from municipal wastewater treatment plants, with focus on sediments. I am really interested in my topic and my career goal is to be a researcher. I just started my PhD a few months ago. It was great timing to attend this forum in an early stage of my studies, because seeing what other students are doing around the world really helped me designing my own project, and getting an idea how long every step takes.”

Christian Wurzer, PhD student, University of Edinburgh: “I am researching biochar applications for environmental management and remediation purposes. My current project evaluates 15 biochars for tertiary treatment of landfill leachate. My goal is to find solutions to some environmental problems, and I think biochar has great potential here. This forum was a good opportunity to get insight into other research fields and to connect with students working with biochar in other parts of the world. Hopefully, this will lead to new international collaborations, in particular with biochar peers.”

Wenbing Wang, Post Doc, Shanghai Jiao Tong University: 

“I am investigating how biochar can cooperate with microorganism for the remediation of 2,4-DCP contaminated soil and groundwater. I enjoy scientific research a lot – it is my hobby. I also really like teaching and I want to become a professor one day. This forum was great to learn about different cultures and make new friends around the world.”

Verena Sesin, PhD student, Trent University: 

“One of my projects is looking at glyphosate fate and persistence in wetland water and sediment following invasive plant control. By sharing my research I want to increase awareness of possible contamination and the need for more monitoring in wetlands to protect native plants and animals. This forum was one of many great opportunities offered by IIES to connect with peers, discuss new developments in environmental science, and practice scientific outreach. With students attending from China, Europe and North America, it was very interesting to chat with everyone about how graduate student life is in their country.”

A huge thanks to our wonderful and generous hosts and the IIES for organizing this forum – see you next year!

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