Interview with Yilin Wang (Fresh Graduate)

This week we introduce you to Yilin Wang. She is a fresh graduate of Master in Science (MSc.Eng) in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark from Feb 2021.

Previously, she did her Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) in Chemical Engineering from Aalborg University (AAU) from year 2018. Thus, she is an alumni of two of the most prestigious institutions of the country with impressive results and vast technical knowledge. She has concluded her MSc by writing her thesis with Colopast focused on Material Science, which was well received and applauded by both her university and company supervisors. She and her project have been planned for preparing a manuscript for publication as well, which presents as a proof of her research skills.

Furthermore, she is an international student, having done her International Baccalaureate (IB) from Hasseris Gymnasium (Aalborg) in 2014. Being an international student, she is a bilingual person with impressive command on both English and Danish to a professional level. Hence, her interview is a good indication for international students planning to study ahead in Danish environment in what to expect and how to prepare.

We were lucky to get an opportunity to interview someone with such impressive academic record, and exceptional command over core engineering topics, ranging from simulation programs (Aspen, PROII) and mathematical engineering programs (MATLAB, Maple) to the basic process engineering topics including unit operation modelling, dimensioning and process optimisation. She is an expert in at OriginsLab for making publication plots, as well as knowledge in JMP Pro for statistical analysis. Apart from being a competent graduate in the topics of core chemical engineering, she has expanded her knowledge base by even specialising in Material Science Engineering. She is currently in the market, and it seems, that any employer who will hire will not only get a chemical engineer, but a competent scientist with willingness to move ahead in the science world with her brilliant research and technical expertise.

Engineering School Days

We started by asking her multiple questions regarding her experience from engineering school. The questions and her insightful answers are provided below.

How was the workload of your degree? What did you spend most time on?

The workload for the deadlines is manageable, however depending on the type of course. For example, courses including process simulation and modelling can be quite demanding. It takes some time to understand, however, things go much smoother after understanding them. The laboratory courses are usually less demanding but time consuming. Overall, I would say that the workload of my degree is manageable, when properly planned.

Was there a lot of chemistry in your curriculum?

There were a few advanced chemistry subjects which I had to study during my bachelors, while there was a lot less chemistry in my masters in comparison. The master was mostly technical subjects and with lots of mathematics. Still, the main focus of my degree was on the technical knowledge, but still, some of the courses and projects did require a basic understanding of chemistry. I did take few advanced courses in chemistry disciplines such as Organic, Inorganic, bio- and Physical chemistry.

What topics did you find the most difficult during your degree?

Chemical engineering was quite a mathematical intensive degree, but I had no trouble in getting into the mindset of approaching and solving the problems in most topics. If I have to pick one, I think I had spent most time on Fluid mechanics (Rheology in complex fluid). In the beginning, it was quite tough to get my head around it but towards the end, it became easier.

Being an international student and having done IB from Denmark? How was the transition from going from international environment to the Danish university? Did you have any difficulty in terms of language in either BSc or MSc?

I would say coming from an international background straight into the Danish University have further advanced my skills to adapt and succeed in any given environment. It was difficult in the first semesters of my BSc (AAU) as a Chemical Engineering student to follow up the lectures which were taught solely in Danish and going to oral exams in Danish. But generally, it was a minor obstacle. However, after some years of practice, my Danish level has extremely improved, and I no longer find any difficulty with the language. Instead, I now speak Danish at a professional level and sometimes prefer to work and write in Danish, so this transition has been quite interesting. The MSc at DTU is taught 100% in English and almost 50% of the students are international students. So, my international background benefited me quite a lot in my MSc in expanding my social network and working within the international environment.

How much level of mathematics can one expect from Chemical Engineering? How did you cope with it?

Chemical Engineering has a lot of advanced mathematics, such as in modelling, solving ODEs and lots of complex algebra. I feel the level of maths which is taught is more than enough for any industry, for both engineering and non-engineering. If I must rate from a scale of 1-5, I will give it 4.5. But the good news is that it is doable! It is scary in the first weeks of courses, when you see all the complex equations, but it gets easier once you start getting it. All it requires is a bit of patience, and a lot of hard work. I tend to read up on my lectures every week, take good notes, attend lectures and ask lots of questions from professors and my co-students if I was in doubt. Take part within group discussions during the assignment sessions after lectures. Luckily, the professors, TAs and classmates are always helpful in helping and explaining the concepts. Finally, once you get into the mindset of solving these equations and models, then all the hard work pays off.

What line did you choose to focus during your degree? Why?

I chose to focus on Process Engineering and Material Science by taking specific courses and by working on multiple projects. It is because I am really passionate about these topics. I even got a chance to do my Master thesis with Coloplast where I focused on Linear and Nonlinear Rheology of adhesives and further specialised in Material Science knowledge. My thesis with Coloplast also gave me an opportunity to use skills in a real-life research environment, which I found to be quite interesting.

What skills did you focus and/or learn in your degree?

I have learned way too many skills to list, but it was of course a combination of both hard and soft skills. The hard skills included simulation programs (Aspen, PROII) to programming languages (MATLAB, Maple). Then of course the basic process engineering skills such as unit operations dimensioning/modelling, CAPEX/OPEX, sustainability, process optimisations, process designing and strong advanced mathematical knowledge. As I said earlier, the advanced mathematical knowledge is pretty much useable in any field or purpose. Since I have specialised in material science, therefore I have gained lots of knowledge in that subject as well. In terms of soft skills, I have learned how to manage deadlines, project management, planning and conducting lab experiments and especially how to work well within groups and people.

You mentioned that you did your Thesis with a company? Many students tend to ignore that choice due to the fear of not getting any supervision and not being around familiar faces? Why did you do it? What was the benefit?

One of the reasons why I have chosen to write my thesis in collaboration with a company is because I have been following up the news about the specific company, and my curiosity drives me to wanting to work with the R&D department and to get an actual experience in how it feels to work in such an enterprise. I would say that throughout my thesis, I have not only been able to apply what I learned, but also expansion of my professional network as well as advancing my interpersonal skill. I have also gained a much more robust understanding of the business structure. It was a challenge to find workload balance between what the company ask for and what the university ask for during my thesis, because of this, I have grown a lot both individually and professionally. Luckily, my supervisors at Coloplast were friendly and helpful, and I did not feel “alone” or lost during the 5 months period. So I would definitely suggest people to do their thesis with companies, because it is a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow.

Did you have any student jobs during or between your education? How did you get them? Where did you work? How did it help your education or future career?

I did not have any jobs related to Chemical Engineering, but I did have many non-engineering positions. I chose to have some non-engineering jobs, in order to expand my skills, which I might not have learnt during my engineering degree. I thought it would make me a lot more generalist who could understand both engineering and business aspects. I was also Buddy for the new MSc students at DTU, which was quite interesting and allowed to make a good social network with the students.

Future Career

As mentioned, Yilin is a new graduate and therefore is currently in the market, looking for employment. We then asked her about the future plans and her answers are below.

You seem to have lots of skills and are well competent for the industry. What industry do you have your eye on for future career?

Well I have not limited myself to any specific industry yet. That is also the benefit of chemical engineering, because it does not limit you to any one industry. I am simply looking forward to using my knowledge in the real world projects and a place where I can further improve my skills. However, I do have one goal that I told myself ever since I started studying as a Chemical Engineer, it is to get opportunities to volunteer/work in the third world countries. This idea excites me, not only does it excite me, but drives me to achieve higher goals and always seek deeper into my potentials.

Any advice for other engineers?
I would suggest them to focus on learning the core skills, focus on getting any job they can during their degrees so that they can have a real-life experience. Also, I would suggest everyone to use the opportunity to get a thesis with a company and apply their knowledge in the real world. But most importantly, enjoy the time!
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