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Zheng Yan is working on several research topics relating to cyber security, privacy and trust

Zheng Yan

‘Time is so limited,’ sighs Professor Zheng Yan, who manages a research team consisting of 30 members. The biggest problem for research management is that Professor Yan has to organise and manage administrative issues which is more complicated in China than in Finland and occupies plenty of time. In China, both master's and doctoral degrees require three defences, and the professor takes care of the related practical arrangements.

‘There is plenty to sign, as even a bachelor's degree requires my signature on 30 different papers.’ Professor Yan has 4-5 students graduating with a bachelor’s degree,  6–7 students graduating with a master’s degree and 1-2 doctoral dissertations annually. Fortunately, electronic signatures and the delegation of the signing task to doctoral students has brought some relief to the hurdle.

Zheng Yan is working on several research topics relating to cyber security, privacy and trust, as each of the nearly 30 students focus on slightly different topics. Yan communicates with her students through email and a Chinese social networking app, saving time by sending voice messages.

How do the Chinese and Finnish work cultures differ?

‘Working at Aalto is more relaxed and it is possible to concentrate better on research, as you get help in personnel management and IT matters.’ Everything is more urgent in China and administration takes time.

‘Examination results are expected in a couple of days. Moreover, reporting about financial matters adds to the sense of hurry. The project progress is monitored in great detail in reports’, Yan says, and describes a situation when she once missed a report deadline by one day. Fortunately, it was not a state-funded project, since missing such a deadline would have had consequences. The connecting factor is that at both universities, applying for funding is a big job.

Yan has an encouraging attitude towards students. She takes her educational responsibility very seriously, and would like to support everyone equally. Students under Yan's guidance have managed to secure really good jobs, which proves that her work has been successful. 

‘I've learned to give students more responsibility, so that I don't do it all myself. In general, I am keen to learn how to enjoy life more.’