Yanuar Philip Wijaya
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Becoming a university professor and researcher has been one of my dreams in life. I enjoy teaching and research activities. It is my great pleasure to be able to explain complex problems in simple and systematic ways, to help others better understand a concept and see the light at the end of the tunnel. After completing my undergraduate degree, I had a three-year experience of working as an Assistant Lecturer, teaching chemical engineering subjects in my home university. Back then, the ideas of studying abroad were always in my mind and, thankfully, I got an opportunity to fulfill this dream through a scholarship for studying in South Korea. It was not until I completed my master study that I realized my passion for academic writing and research. My interest in clean energy and chemical engineering has grown deeper ever since and that motivated me to further pursue a doctoral degree. Given the opportunities, I would like to write and share as many stories as possible, especially those that are related to my experiences, findings, and insights during my study here, which hopefully can inspire others and bring tangible impact to society. I believe that being impressive is not enough, we should strive to become impactful. In order to keep on improving, we must never stop learning. Importantly, studying on graduate level is truly a rewarding experience that will broaden my mind and help me recognize the importance of humility and curiosity in our active search for wisdom and truth in this vast, diverse, and rapidly growing world.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
My decision to study at UBC was very much influenced by the available opportunity suggested by my former supervisor (when I was in the M.Eng. program in Seoul, Korea), Dr. Chang Soo Kim, who is also part of my supervisory committee here. I would like to continue working with him and the other UBC professors, Dr. Kevin Smith and Dr. Elod Gyenge, on the research topics that interest me, such as catalytic transformation of biomass to fuels and valuable chemicals. Moreover, I was always fascinated by the ideas of being in an international community. At UBC, I can earn valuable experience and knowledge by doing research and study simultaneously with all the supporting facilities and instrumentation. Additionally, another appealing factor was also the considerable opportunity to apply for awards or scholarships to support my study here.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
In general, people here are more concerned with the work-life balance and very respectful to other people’s space and time. However, I admit that sometimes it takes more time for one to complete a task. The first day I set foot in UBC was a thrilling moment–the size and splendor of this campus was captivating. One thing I like about Vancouver is the weather in spring and summer seasons. I could feel like the air is so pure and refreshing and the nature offers a lot of beautiful scenery: mountains, oceans, lakes, beaches, and gardens. I always look forward to spending my weekend for outdoor activities, such as hiking, snowshoeing, or just sightseeing, especially when the weather is nice. Surprisingly enough, here, rain can last for a week or more, but I never get flooded. When it’s raining, it’s better to stay home and study (or maybe just relax while trying to make sense of why this city is called ‘Raincouver’). Also, another surprise was the intense snowfalls during winter in my first year like I never experienced before. I felt like I was living in a winter wonderland.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
I have been interested in too many subjects, including science, engineering, music, sports, religion, psychology, and even politics. In my learning, I used to embrace broad and strategic approaches instead of deep one. Having broad knowledge is, of course, important and can be helpful, especially for those who are working in managerial positions. However, having many interests could potentially bring distractions and lower productivity and efficiency at work. To overcome a lack of focus, I usually make a list of goals (things to accomplish) in my mind for the work I do one day at a time and keep track of the progress every day. The good thing about having a multidisciplinary interest is that sometimes I can discover some insights from a particular subject which seem relevant to the others, for instance, a correlation between chemical engineering and psychology.
Studying on graduate level is truly a rewarding experience that will broaden my mind and help me recognize the importance of humility and curiosity in our active search for wisdom and truth in this vast, diverse, and rapidly growing world.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
Doing research on graduate level demands focus, vision, and determination. I feel that this program has been so far helping me to be able to work independently, have a big vision and goal, and develop my critical thinking and creativity. It is important to understand what, why, and how we are doing things and not just rely on the guidelines or direction from our supervisors. In addition to understanding, I believe that memorizing what we learn is also very crucial for knowledge retention. Oftentimes I could understand a concept or theory, but I could not remember it well after years. Through this program, I have been developing a simple but good habit of, for example, making more organized records in the experiments which could help in the data analysis later on. I believe in the power of starting small, which help me be more consistent and focus on the most urgent and important tasks. This program has also helped me develop a deep approach in my learning and elevate my interpersonal skills. Hopefully, things will turn out fine and I can contribute enough fruitful works and meaningful outcomes by the end of my study here.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy doing sports, watching soccer games, listening to music, playing guitar or piano, singing, and reading inspiring books. I also like outdoor activities, such as hiking, jogging, and travelling.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Don't be alarmed if you are to spend most of your first year for reading manuscripts and writing a proposal. That's a normal stage for graduate students. Fill your days with creativity. Be patient with the process, enjoy the journey, be intentional in making progress every day, and always be hopeful.