Q&A with a Future World Changer: Yalinu Poya | Top Universities

Q&A with a Future World Changer: Yalinu Poya

By Stephanie Lukins

Updated April 25, 2020 Updated April 25, 2020

Sponsored by University of Glasgow

Whether your dream is to empower young scientists in Africa with computer programming skills, conserve and protect the world’s coral ecosystem, or create an innovative and sustainable solution to help feed the world’s population, the sky is the limit at the University of Glasgow.

Yalinu Poya is a PhD student in Chemistry from the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea, which is being drastically affected by global warming. She is working to create a cleaner and safer way to produce ammonia, which is used in fertilizers to produce the crops we rely on to meet global food demands. She is one of 33 students chosen to join the University of Glasgow’s Future World Changers Program.

We spoke with Yalinu to find out more about her research, what it means to be named a Future World Changer, and what her message is for any young girls who also have dreams of changing the world through science.

Can you tell us a bit about your research and what inspired you to do it?

I love science, especially green chemistry, and I have a passion to change society, particularly through sustainable development. I thought to myself: “Perhaps I can contribute to something bigger, something that can benefit everyone”.

When I was searching for PhD positions, the University of Glasgow immediately caught my attention as it had research in ammonia synthesis. Ammonia is mainly manufactured via the Haber Bosch Process. It has many uses, primarily in synthetic fertilizers which almost three billion people around the world depend on for food production.

It is useful, however there are environmental disadvantages involved due to its harsh reaction conditions. My research is focused on making catalysts that are able to produce ammonia on a small-scale using renewable energy.

What have you learnt from your experience as a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow?

The University of Glasgow is one of the best institutions in the world, and my experience has been nothing short of spectacular. I have a wonderful and supportive supervisor, I’m surrounded by excellent scientists who share my passion, and the staff are most helpful.

The university gives fair, equal opportunities to its students whilst motivating and encouraging us to do our very best.

What are your hopes for the future of sustainable food production and how do you think your research will contribute to this?

The world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, and food production will need to increase in order to cater for this. With climate change becoming a significant threat to our world, scientists need to come up with clever solutions for human sustenance whilst prioritizing the environmental concern.

As a scientist, it’s ethical to not only research a cause for food security, but also address climate change.

I believe that my research can contribute towards the future of sustainable food production.

What led you to apply to the University of Glasgow’s Future World Changers program? 

I had heard of the Future World Changers program, but I didn’t think to apply for it. It wasn’t until people from across the university encouraged me to, because of the awards, achievements and accolades I had been receiving across the world for my research that I thought I would give it a shot.

What does it mean to you to be named a Future World Changer?

I always remember the mundane science experiments that I conducted in my backyard while growing up in Papua New Guinea. I thought of myself as a curious girl and I had big dreams to go out into the world and change society.

Looking back at my humble beginnings I never thought that one day I would be named as a Future World Changer for my contributions in science.

How do you think your time at the University of Glasgow and as a Future World Changer has helped you with your area of research?

The University of Glasgow has molded me greatly in my career as a scientist. They believed in my future, my dreams and my aspirations, and provided me with the opportunity to study at this world-changing university, a research powerhouse.

I believe that the skills, knowledge, experience and exposure that I have gained from the university will enable me to contribute to society and change the world.

What has been your most memorable moment as a University of Glasgow student/Future World Changer?

I have many memorable moments and I have lost count of them! Being a Future World Changer has given me a platform to share my ambitions as an early research career scientist, and contributed towards my ambition to change the world by making catalysts.

Lead image credit: University of Glasgow 

This article was originally published in March 2020 . It was last updated in April 2020

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