Get to know us: Doctoral student Pingchao Ke
Why did you choose Aalto and Hydrometallurgy?
When I was a doctoral student, my research group had a very close and friendly collaboration with Hydrometallurgy and Corrosion, HYDRO, group of Aalto. It was my great honor to have an academic exchange with Professor Mari Lundström at that time and I was inspired a lot by that. From that I knew Aalto is a very good university and HYDRO group was my priority.
Why did you want to do your postdoctoral research training abroad?
Having an overseas research experience is very important for every researcher. Finland is a very creative nation, so I can turn my creative thoughts to practice and learn some new and interesting ideas here. Conversing with the other scientists facilitates both. There is no doubt my future career will be benefitting from this experience, including the English training and a new mindset towards research.
What is your current research topic?
My topic is about recovery of battery metals (nickel and copper) and precious metal (palladium, platinum, gold, and silver) from a new concentrate. First, the concentrate is pretreated to decrease the particle size and manipulating the mineral phases to achieve selective leaching of the target metals with a cyanide free method. Finally, there are many ways to recover the metals and potentially the leaching reagent regeneration. We are proposing a new process for recovering the target metals efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner to replace the rough process with low selectivity which is being used in the industry.
How can the knowledge be applied in the industry or in other academic work?
We are collaborating with a company in Finland to proceed with the topic. When we propose the finalized scientific process that has been verified to be valid in a laboratory setup, it could be used in the industry by the company to further verify its validity and finally be used for an industrial process. The whole transition from theory to practice takes an unpredictable period of time but shows that research is indispensable for companies to evolve.
In what ways is Aalto University's work environment different than in your home country?
Language is the most different. In my home country, China, most of time we speak in Chinese, but here we use English. That is good for improving my English skills, but now that I have spoken in English for a long time, I tend to forget some Chinese words and need seconds to recall them! Also, working in China has always a bit of pressure due to strong competition. Conversely, working in Aalto is more relaxed and therefore healthier. It is hard to say which one is better; each has its own pros and cons.
What made you want to pursue a doctorate?
On a personal level a desire for knowledge and high ambitions. Also encouragement from teachers, friends, and parents.
Do you have plans on continuing your academic career after your doctorate degree?
I will definitely continue my academic career. I’m an Assistant Professor at East China University of Technology and a researcher at The State Key Laboratory of Nuclear Resources and Environment in China. I learned during my 2-month internship in the industry, that I’m more interested in an academic career. It’s much more interesting to work with a microscope and small reactors rather than a giant furnace and noisy machines. Working on the campus is the definition of happiness for me!
How do you feel your doctoral studies will help you in your career?
I obtained professional and systematic research-training, and my logical thinking was significantly strengthened by the doctoral studies. That was like a key to opening the gates of research work and to make me have confidence to choose science as my career. My supervisor at that time played a very important role by instructing, helping, and encouraging me a lot. Overall, they were a very positive influence for my career and opened my mind to research.
What advice do you have for people thinking of pursuing doctoral studies?
Never give up. Stay foolish, stay hungry. Keep asking why. Plan your future as early as possible.
This interview is conducted by Aleksanteri Kupi who has been working during the summer at the School of Chemical Engineering.