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Student story

Vikash Ghildiyal

31 August 2023

"My experiences here have enriched and improved my life..."

PhD in Forestry Science

You’ve had a long academic journey studying Forestry in India before arriving at UC – why is forestry and wood science so interesting to you? 

My motivation for choosing this field of study is driven by a combination of passion and ambition. I have always been passionate about studying wood as a material and its utilisation for various end applications, and how the wood industries are currently struggling to find solutions to use lower-quality wood in order to contribute towards sustainable development that would benefit the larger world.

A PhD in this field can help me achieve my dream of working as a Researcher and give back something to the timber industry and society, as my research promotes the low-carbon economy by developing sustainable, environmentally friendly timber resources through better use of lower-quality wood.

How is your research working towards that goal?

My research mainly focuses on contributing towards the development of appropriate technologies that could enhance the service life of wood, consequently locking carbon for a prolonged period in wood products.

Timber from short-rotation eucalyptus plantations is often ‘difficult-to-dry’, suffering defects during this process. My PhD study investigates two strategies for reducing these defects in plantation-grown eucalypts: reducing this problem through a breeding programme by selecting genetically less defect-prone planting stock; and technical solutions to allow the drying of defect-prone timber without defects.

My PhD research aided the New Zealand Forest products industry by supporting the establishment of a domestic, sustainable, natural-durable hardwood industry based on fast-growing eucalypts to deliver a high-value timber alternative to low-stiffness CCA-treated Pinus radiata. This research has elevated New Zealand to the forefront of eucalyptus breeding programmes worldwide.

Sounds like you’ve already contributed quite a lot to the industry! Have you enjoyed studying at UC?

I had a fantastic time during my PhD. I was a little apprehensive when I initially arrived, with New Zealand being so different from India, but I found life here amazing after I got started at UC and met new people. I have had the opportunity to work with professionals who believe in their work and are driven by a definite passion to contribute to the world and make it a better place.

What made you choose to come to New Zealand?

I looked for the best option for my academic interests. Carrying out my study at the top-class, world-leading New Zealand School of Forestry at UC, plus the outdoor activities Christchurch presents, it was a very straightforward decision to choose New Zealand and UC as my destination. The international ranking of its universities as well as its consistently excellent ratings as a good place to live, study, and work also encouraged my decision. My experiences here have enriched and improved my life.

What other experiences have you had?

I have gained field experience and worked as a team leader for the NZ Dryland Forests Innovation Project. Many thanks to the NZDFI Scholarship, which funds my PhD.

I received various accolades throughout my PhD studies, including the New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF) Foundation Future Forests Scholarship, the McKelvey Award, the UC Doctoral Publication Prize, the Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST) Travel Award, etc.

I would advise each student in this subject area to participate in field activities that would not only help advance your knowledge and skills, but also allow you to explore several beautiful places in this country.

I also got involved with campus life through joining the Postgraduate Students’ Association (UCPGSA) and the Student Volunteer Arm (UCSVA), which has included taking part in community outreach events. The University caters to international students in a variety of ways, including through the many clubs and societies available for those of us who wish to join. I took part in several UCPGSA, UCSA, Forestry Society (FORSOC), and UC Indian Student Association (UCISA) events.

It looks like you’ve really made the most of being at UC.

I really appreciate the supportive environment at UC. I truly loved the fact that my research supervisors were invested and interested not only in my academic performance but also in my general wellbeing.

The University also played a significant role in helping me blend effortlessly into life in Christchurch. I found it easy, enjoyable, and life changing.

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