Pulp and Paper Canada

Oh International Canada!

June 1, 2007  By Pulp & Paper Canada

“My goal in coming to Canada was both personal and professional,” says Virginie Chambost, currently working on the Forest Biorefinery with Dr. Paul Stuart, as part of the NSERC Environmental Design En…

“My goal in coming to Canada was both personal and professional,” says Virginie Chambost, currently working on the Forest Biorefinery with Dr. Paul Stuart, as part of the NSERC Environmental Design Engineering Chair at cole Polytechnique de Montral. “Canada is seen internationally as such a ‘green,’ innovative country, at the forefront of biotechnology. That was the image I always had of Canada when I was living in France.” Chambost explains that students in France are strongly encouraged to pursue their academic careers outside of the country largely to ‘prove’ they have the ability to put their education to practical use (a North American experience is really valuable for European and especially French employers). “Just because you have an MBA doesn’t mean you can easily access, after your studies, responsibilities and good positions in France,” she explains of the prevailing belief system of her home country. “My experience here has been entirely different and is so valuable now,” she confirms with infectious enthusiasm. “I was really looking to create something, to build something. Although I had no background in engineering (her studies focused primarily on international trade and innovative project management and how management planning impacts the future of the wood industry), I have found that employers here are really willing to give you a chance. I see Canada as an interesting springboard for my career. In France, it would be different: French bureaucracy may have slowed down my career. I am able to appreciate a cultural and professional immersion in this welcoming country and to develop my creativity here at cole Polytechnique,” she says, something she views as critical to tackling the challenges currently dominating the pulp and paper industry. “Even if the sector isn’t doing well, a student studying in Canada is encouraged to think, ‘maybe there is a place for me here to try and save it.’ There is plenty of work to be done; dynamic people are the key of success for the wood industry in Canada to preserve its valuable assets.”

Partners in excellence


It’s exactly that progressive, positive attitude that research institutes such as Paprican are able to capitalize on by inviting international students to pursue their education here. As Ron Crotogino of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada notes, the pulp and paper industry is indeed a global sector, with a well-established tradition of international collaboration at all levels of research. “The top researchers in any specific field of research are thinly spread throughout the research laboratories and universities in the major pulp and paper producing countries around the world. If we wish to keep in touch with the new developments in our field of research, we must develop and maintain strong international contacts.”

Paprican has done just that. There are typically two to four students from abroad working at the two Paprican laboratories at any given time. Students have come from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Brazil and China. The institute also supports NSERC Industrial Post-Graduate Scholarships, which stipulate that the student spend some time in Paprican laboratories, and the institute employs its full quota of NSERC summer students each year (usually ten). Paprican has found these partnerships to be extremely beneficial on a number of fronts.

“Students tend to be very good researchers,” Crotogino confirms. “They are able to tackle small projects that allow us to explore new avenues. The projects have to be well-defined and feasible within the available time frame. The student contributes enthusiasm and resourcefulness. Student support has always been a very good investment for us, and the program is also an excellent recruiting tool. Working with students exposes them to the fascinating challenges that research in pulp and paper offers. Most of the students have not had much exposure to our industry. We show them the depth of the science and technology that is required to make paper that will meet the quality demands of our customers. Some of these students come back and do post-graduate degrees with our university partners. The foreign students help us create lasting links with our research colleagues abroad.”

Jinlan Ju, currently completing her Paprican research program for her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick, echoes Crotogino’s sentiments exactly. Hailing from China, Ju elected to leave her position as an assistant professor in the field of chemistry at the Nanjiing University of Technology to augment her professional knowledge in Canada.

“I strongly felt that I had to obtain some advanced ideas concerning university and industrial settings of Western countries, and to develop excellent communication and leadership skills, which were absent in my familiar Chinese university settings.” Ju relocated to Canada in 2005, and her experience to date has allowed her to achieve many of the personal and professional goals she set for herself.

“Canada has the right elements for my academic needs,” she says. “Furthermore, I have sufficient access to advanced research facilities and academic information to assist me in improving my research strengths.” For Ju, Paprican offers an attractive middle ground between a purely academic, research-driven environment and an industrial setting. “Paprican is a bridge between science, technology and industry,” she said. “I am exposed to the rigours of good fundamental research that is publishable in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Under the conduct of my Paprican supervisor, I have learned to consider an issue from both sides of the science and industrial application, which provides me with a direct idea of how to apply science and technology into the real industry. I have also learned how to develop solutions to important problems facing the industry based on my research.”

For Ju, Canada offers not only an academic springboard from which to launch her career, but also a number of cultural incentives she considers crucial to her personal and professional growth and development. “Communication through oral and written English enables me to rapidly master this international language. Involvement in various activities, such as conferences and group meetings enhance my understanding of the Western management system, culture and the people. The Canadian life also guides me into an open field to explore more opportunities. Via studying in Canada, I have improved my career prospects.”

Career prospects are something the Universit de Quebec Trois-Rivires took very seriously when deciding on the format for its Masters’ in pulp and paper science program. As Professor Sylvain Robert notes, the two existing options of the program, the scientific and professional stream, were carefully crafted to meet the individual needs and situations of students either already working in the industry, or those seeking to carve out a research-based career in the field. “While one of the aspects of this Masters’ program is the regular, scientific format, the other is professional, and caters to students already working in the industry.” What is so innovative about the program is that all courses are offered on the weekends: one Friday and Saturday long weekend per month, to be specific.

“It’s extremely intensive,” Robert allows,” but no mill is interested in losing someone for 15 weeks. This is much more manageable for both students and employers.” The format of the program fosters a highly creative environment, as the scientific and practical industrial experiences of the students mesh and blend in the classroom. Although the bulk of the student base does come from Quebec, the progressive nature of the program has drawn students from China, South America, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Czechoslovakia. The format proved so successful that UQTR was recruited to run the Masters’ at the Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela from 1999-2002. Although the difficult political landscape prompted UQTR to turn down the offer, Columbia al
so approached the university to establish a collaboration similar to the one shared with Venezuela.

Canadian reputation

That international students seek to further their education in Canada comes as no surprise to Robert, who completed his undergraduate and doctoral work at UQTR. “Pulp and paper is very strong in Canada,” he said. “The seriousness of the work we undertake here is recognized around the world. We have an extremely strong reputation.” The reputation of UQTR is set to solidify even further in the near future, as the university works to develop a Ph.D. program.

The academic community’s reliance on the expertise, motivation and drive of international students is manifest throughout our entire industry, to its tremendous advantage. As Paprican’s Ron Crotogino notes, Canada’s recognition of the importance of international co-operation plays an indisputably critical role in the success and prosperity of our industry. “International collaboration has always been an important factor in the research carried out within our industry,” he says. “This collaboration is evident in any international conference related to our industry. Many senior researchers throughout the industry in Canada and abroad have spent time working abroad as students, on sabbaticals or as part of their career path.”

The value Canada’s pulp, paper and forestry sector places on international collaboration and the resources it directs to fostering academic ties to the international community are considerable. As the industries of some of our fiercest competitors strengthen and solidify, having allies in some of the sharpest minds that chose to hone their craft within our borders can only serve to augment our own industry. The exchange of academic and cultural ideas, ideals and values is a partnership that Canada’s educational community has worked hard to develop. If the level of enthusiasm of our visiting students, or the level of research being conducted is a marker by which to judge our success in establishing this collaboration, we have been hugely successful.

There are a number of graduate students who are part of the NSCERC Environmental Design Engineering Chair at cole Polytechnique de Montral. These students came from all corners of the world to work on their MSc and PhD degrees and are now working with Professor Paul Stuart. With a wide range of backgrounds and specializations in varying academic disciplines, as was noted by Virginie Chambost, these students “are making unique contributions to their multidisciplinary research group.” Although they all have different reasons for choosing to come to Canada, the experience they are receiving here, and the payback Canada is reaping from their dedication, enthusiasm and skills, is a relationship of tremendous mutual benefit.

Q: Can you describe your current research project?


“My project is based on modelling of the wastewater treatment plant at an integrated TMP pulp and paper mill, in particular, modelling the nutrient mechanisms in the aerated basin of the activated sludge process. As well as modelling the biochemical processes in the treatment plant, I am treating mill data to establish periods of steady state, which is interesting given the range of time characteristics of the treatment process. Through my experiences with the pulp and paper mill, I have been lucky enough to work with people that have a very proactive and enthusiastic attitude towards the challenges faces by the pulp and paper industry in North America. Many of the challenges here are yet to be seen elsewhere in the world, so it is an exciting time to be in Canada.”


“My work is in the area of data processing, specifically, using wavelet analysis for on-line process trend identification in order to perform real-time process and cost/business date reconciliation plant-wide. Starting with an integrated TMP-newsprint mill, we seek to define methodology.”

Q: Why were you, as an international student, inclined to study in Canada?


“From the cultural standpoint, Canada provides a rich environment to live actively where a multi-cultural community is proceeding towards success and progress. Mastering English and French will be a definite asset in terms of future career and social life — easy to obtain in Canada as a bilingual country.”


“Canada gives students the opportunity to advance in their studies. Canada can be seen as an open society — where the government is worried about jobs, business opportunities and return on the capital invested, but at the same time have other concerns like the environment and society protection, although Canada is subject to the same rules of the global economic environment. Furthermore, there is a real interest to open the doors to business opportunities based on so-called green products, and to discover the way through it while respecting society. This ultimately is what makes Canada so interesting because it approaches this theme with intelligence and respect for future generations.”


“There is an openness here, a cultural richness, particularly in Montreal. There is an opportunity for different life experiences.”

Q: What does the Canadian pulp and paper industry have to offer as enticement to pursue a program of study here?


“Canada has novel technologies and good knowledge, with an opportunity to obtain mill experience.”


“Many pulp and paper companies here are willing to contribute to research activities, and there is a strong relationship between universities and industry. Some of the mills are technologically advanced.”

Q: What have your experiences been like so far?


“As a student I can say the life at the university is very exciting yet very demanding. But I am at this point a little bit influenced by the fact that I am here just for a few months with my family, and the process of adaptation is sometimes very stressful.”


“[I have been able to] work on a new technology development for drying residual sludge — biodrying, mathematical modelling, visit conferences, presenting papers and work with professionals.”

Q: Has it been a beneficial experience? Would you recommend such a course of action to other international students seeking to study abroad?


“I can surely say so. The courses, the students and the faculty members can make one discover its way to its objectives. I can say they act like an agent of modulation helping in the process of adjustments. Anyone pursuing the enhancement of options in their personal and professional life can find in the end that there is much to gain, share and exchange.”


“It is a different point of view on study, a different practice. It is the best thing for a student to acquire from their studies, going abroad to see what other countries can give!”

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