The 2013 Marcus Wallenberg Symposium – A personal recollection

When Ata Sina, Pulp and Paper Centre researcher heard about a competition with the prize being a seat at the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation ceremony and symposium in Sweden, he enthusiastically put together his application that included two abstracts and sent it off to be judged. He was shortlisted and invited to a webinar where he presented his research on a novel method to create sophisticated and complex 3-D self-folding paper products. It was a rigorous exercise, but it paid off. Ata was among only 5 students from Canadian universities invited to attend the festivities in Sweden. The following is a personal recollection on his experience.
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The invited young researchers from around the world, along with leaders from industry and academia, attended a welcoming speech by Marcus Wallenberg, chairman of the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation. Following various oral presentations by a selection of students, we broke into small groups to discuss our individual work based on wood as a raw material, and how future products or technologies can have a positive impact on the forest-based industry. It was amazing to have the chance to discuss these important issues with incredible minds gathered from around the world.

From left: David McDonald, Ata Sina, Fredérique Deiss, Hadia Awad, Derek Gray, Phoebe Li, Angela Dodd, Theo van de Ven

From left: David McDonald, Ata Sina, Fredérique Deiss, Hadia Awad, Derek Gray, Phoebe Li, Angela Dodd, Theo van de Ven


Later that evening we gathered in the Vinterträdgården, the “Winder Garden”, a magnificent room at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm which was the backdrop of the award ceremony. The prestigious Marcus Wallenberg Prize is meant to recognize, encourage and simulate pathbreaking scientific achievements which contribute significantly to broadening knowledge and to technical development within the fields of importance to forestry and forest industries. The 2013 recipient is Professor Derek Gray for his pioneering study of nano crystalline cellulose (NCC). Professors Theo van de Ven and David McDonald, the chair and senior advisor of Forest Innovation by Research & Education (FIBRE), accompanied us, the Canadian based students, to the dinner ceremony. It was an absolutely exciting and proud moment to witness a Canadian, Professor Gray, receive such a prestigious award from the hand of His Majesty the King of Sweden, Carl XI Gustaf.

From left: Dr. Derek Gray, King Gustaf XVI of Sweden, Marcus Wallenberg - chair of the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation

From left: Dr. Derek Gray, King Gustaf XVI of Sweden, Marcus Wallenberg – chair of the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation

The next day was just as stimulating. Experts in the field spoke on the central theme of “Breaking Down Cellulose Fibres to Create High Value Products”. I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Professor Derek Gray, and listen to a passionate talk on “Evolution and Potential Uses of Nanocrystalline Cellulose”. Another talk I found especially interesting was that by Professor Tom Lindstrom – he discussed the future for nanotechnology in the forest industry. All invited young researchers also had the opportunity to present their work during a poster session on this day. The title of the poster I presented was Prototype Automated Converter for Creating Complex 3D Paper Folds.

The symposium finished off by giving us time to meet with all the invited speakers, including Dr. Derek Gray! It was really a once in a lifetime opportunity which all of took advantage of by asking all the possible questions we could think of.

Once the symposium was over, the five of us were invited by Prof. Lindstrom to tour the facilities of the company Innventia – a world leader in research and development relating to pulp, paper, biorefining, among others. The staff of researchers enthusiastically showed us around the labs and patiently answered all of our questions. We then had a chance to visit the campus of one the most prestigious universities, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

The symposium was a great experience that also gave me the opportunity to establish new connections with other young researchers, scientists and industrial experts from different countries, not to mention a chance to meet Canada’s Ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Kenneth Macartney (red tie, photo below), who held a reception in honour of Dr. Derek Gray.

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For more information on The Marcus Wallenberg Prize and other news from the Foundation, please visit: http://mwp.org/

To read the initial web post of Ata Sina being invited to Sweden, please visit http://www.ppc.ubc.ca/2013/09/11/the-marcus-wallenberg-foundation-invites-ppc-researcher-to-sweden/

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