For more than 100 years, being part of the TAPPI community has meant members have the opportunity to easily connect with other industry experts from around the world. With the 21st century well underway, that international support is still going strong. Take young professional Ying Xue, for instance.
A Ph.D. graduate from North Carolina State University (NCSU), Ying received her degree in Forest Biomaterials in 2011, and got her E.I.T. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State in the same year. Previously, she earned a B.E. in Light Chemical Engineering with a co-major in Business Administration from South China University of Technology. Ying, it is safe to say, understands the value of education which is why one of the first steps she took upon graduating with her doctorate was to apply for membership in TAPPI.
“I first learned about TAPPI when I was a sophomore at South China University of Technology in 2005,” Ying said. “I was working on a project using biomass (paper sludge/agricultural waste) to cultivate enzymes. In that project, biomass characterizations were performed using TAPPI Standards. In fact, the abbreviation ‘TAPPI’ showed up in all my grad school publications and almost every chapter of my thesis. I realized then I needed to become a member.”
Ying’s career path to the Pulp & Paper industry was greatly influenced early on in her educational pursuits. As an undergraduate intern, she visited a P&P company and was impressed by the smart design of the mill configuration, which she described “as sophisticated as a small town with its own power generation and wastewater treatment systems, in addition to complicated production processes.” At the time, Ying thought, if you can understand the unit operations in a P&P mill, you would be a very strong chemical engineer.
In addition, NCSU’s student TAPPI chapter was very active and while she was not yet a member, she attended a meeting where working professionals in the field shared their career stories. Ying said that attending this meeting had a great impact on her and at that very moment she decided to change her degree from a Master’s to a Ph.D. in Forest Biomaterials. “That meeting convinced me that this was the field for me,” Ying said, “I love science and always wanted to go for a doctorate but up until then had not made up my mind which field of study.” Ying also felt that the Pulp & Paper industry generously supports young professionals when they make the decision to pursue careers in it.
Ying is now a full-time REACH Engineer at International Paper. She works on fiber line process optimization, trouble shooting and mill startup technical support. She calls it her “dream job” because it allows her to combine scientific research and trials with the ability to apply solutions in the real production world. “Process optimization and troubleshooting are challenging which makes it even more rewarding when you accomplish a goal,” she said. She also credits her co-workers. “With generous help from my tech center colleagues and engineers from the mill, and through teamwork with really knowledgeable people, I am learning a lot. This is what excites me about my work.”
As for TAPPI, Ying feels her involvement and attendance at conferences has also helped shape her fledgling career. “The TAPPI NCSU Chapter is doing a great job helping student members in career development,” she notes. “Every year in the fall semester, the department has a full schedule for company onsite interviews, most of them with an informative and fun pre-night. Thanks to them, I am now working in my dream job.”
For more information on TAPPI’s student chapters and careers in the industry, contact TAPPI’s Libby Settle at +1.770.209.7345.
Q. When did you first learn about TAPPI?
A. I learned about TAPPI when I was a sophomore in South China University of Technology in 2005, working on a project using biomass (paper sludge/agriculture waste) to cultivate enzymes. In that project, biomass characterizations were performed under TAPPI standard methods.
Q. What interested you in becoming a member?
A. The abbreviation “TAPPI” showed up in all my grad school publications and almost every major chapter of my thesis. I realized then I needed to become a member.
Q. How did membership help you in your studies?
A. My school chapter organizes meetings in which working professionals in Pulp & Paper are invited to share their stories with students. It was the first formal meeting I attended in grad school, and it had a great impact on me. At the time, I was not a member yet. But from there, I decided to transfer from a Master’s program to a Ph.D. (I love science and always wanted to go for a Ph.D., but had not made up my mind yet which field when I was applying to grad school). Through that meeting, I also felt that the pulp and paper field is generously helping young professionals, both financially and mentally.
Q. What prompted you to pursue an advanced degree in the field?
A. I visited a pulp and paper company as an undergraduate intern. I was impressed by the smart design of the mill configuration. A pulp and paper mill is as sophisticated as a small town with its own power generation system and waste water treatment system, besides the complicated production processes. At that time I thought if someone can deeply understand unit operations in a pulp and paper mill, this person would be very strong in Chemical Engineering. Thus, I decided go further in the field.
Q. What do you hope to do in the industry in the future? What are your goals?
A. I still would like to continue working on process optimization and troubleshooting with scientific research and trials to solve problems with the least expense. My goal is to become a reliable, innovative engineer.
Q. What area in particular do you enjoy (or are currently) working in? What excites you about the work you do?
A. I was dreaming of a job that would allow me to do research while applying it in real production with help from field engineers. Process optimization and troubleshooting are challenging, which makes it feel more rewarding when accomplishing a goal. With generous help from my tech center colleagues and engineers from the mill, I am learning through team work with knowledgeable people. That’s what excites me about my work.
Q. During school, how were you involved with TAPPI?
A. I used TAPPI references, participated in TAPPI conferences, and developed my career with help from TAPPI.
Q. Do you feel TAPPI was instrumental in helping you find full-time career work or instrumental in defining what you want to do?
Yes. TAPPI NCSU chapter is doing a great job in helping student members with career development. Every year in the fall semester, my department has a full schedule for company onsite interviews. The onsite interviews (most of them with an informative and fun pre-night) are well organized. The faculty and staff help students find a dream career path with tremendous efforts. For example, I explained to Ms. Pat Hill that for my dream job I would like to do some research, while working with real industrial processes and field experts, instead of doing just pure research. She suggested a list of companies that would have this type of opportunity for me, and always kept me posted when a company with my dream job came to campus. I will never forget all the heartfelt care and generous help I got from them.
Q. Would you recommend membership in TAPPI to your classmates and/or colleagues?
A. TAPPI is a helpful resource, not only for learning knowledge at school and finding a job, but also to obtain new thoughts and ideas from annual conferences, and to make friends with various experts who can help when you run into a never experienced technical question at work. It can accompany and impact your lifetime career development.
Q. Can you tell us a fun or unique fact about yourself, or share a hobby you enjoy?
A. I like to travel during my vacation. Greetings from unexpected animals, the views, and raindrops make me like mountains.