Introduction of the Forestry Engineering Discipline
The so-called “Forestry Engineering” programs with Chinese characteristics at Northeast Forestry University (NEFU) date back to the 1950s. NEFU was accredited to offer the master’s degree and the doctoral degree in “Forestry Engineering” in 1981 when the Regulations of People’s Republic of China on Academic Degrees went into effect. The “Forestry Engineering” discipline was then gradually divided into 7 sub-disciplines. In 1997, the “Forestry Engineering” discipline was re-divided into 3 main sub-disciplines: “Wood Science and Technology”, “Chemical Processing Engineering of Forest Products”, and “Forest Engineering.” The “Forestry Engineering” discipline was re-accredited by the Ministry of Education in 1998. After the arrival of the 21st century, NEFU added another 5 sub-disciplines to the “Forestry Engineering” discipline. These sub-disciplines are: “Biomaterials Engineering,” “Forest Transportation Engineering,” “Automation Engineering in Forestry,” “Information Engineering in Forestry,” and “Bio-based Composite Materials.” It is noted that currently “Wood Science and Technology,” “Chemical Processing Engineering of Forest Products”, and “Forest Engineering” are the so-called “National Key Sub-disciplines”, and “Biomaterials Engineering” is a “Heilongjiang Provincial Key Sub-discipline”. The mission, vision, and goals of the “Forestry Engineering” programs are: (1) cultivating high-level professionals for careers in science and engineering pertaining to forestry and forestry-related sectors, (2) developing technologies for the advancement of breeding/utilization of forest-based natural resources, and (3) sustaining “greener” practices of wood supply/use for moving towards a sustainable future. Essentially, NEFU is now leading the way in the “Forestry Engineering” sector in China, and her international impact as regards this discipline has been growing.
On the basis of the delicate integration of multiple research areas, the “Forestry Engineering” programs have been developed into a comprehensive discipline basically associated with the efficient utilization and sustainable development of forest-based renewable bio-resources. The well-established research programs mainly include “Forest Plantation and Wood Properties”, “Wood Science and Living Environment”, “Preservation and Functional Modification of Wood”, “Carbon Footprint and Wood Products”, “Furniture Manufacturing and Design”, “Environmentally Friendly Wood-bonding Adhesives”, “Forest-based Composite Materials”, “Chemical Engineering in the Production of Forest Products”, “Carbon-based Adsorbents”, “Bio-based Hybrids and 3D Printing”, “Processing of Forest-based Biomaterials/composites”, “Tree Breeding”, “Timber Harvesting”, “Forest Products Transportation and Logistics in Cold Regions”, “Forest Machinery”, “Information and Automation Engineering in Forestry”, and “Cyber-physical Systems and Internet of Things Pertaining to Forestry”. These research programs/areas fit well into the global trends and future possibilities of the forestry, and they are representative of NEFU’s unique features/missions in theoretical research and product development. Noticeably, NEFU currently holds a world-leading position in “Wood Modification”, “Wood-plastic Composites”, “Wood Biomimetics and Stimuli-responsive Wood-derived Products”, “Nanocellulose”, “Wood-derived Aerogels”, and “Carbon-based Materials”.
In accordance with the “Forestry Engineering” programs, NEFU has a research team including 1 member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, 2 awardees of the “Chang Jiang Scholar Program”, 2 national professionals of “Hundred/thousand/ten-thousand Talents Engineering”, 1 awardee of the “Ten Thousand National Talents Program”, 10 awardees of the “New Century Excellent Talents Program for Chinese Universities”, 1 awardee of the “National Young/middle-aged Experts with Distinguished Contributions”, 1 awardee of the “National ‘May 1st’ Work-based Excellence”, and 9 awardees of the “Special Salary-based Award from the Central Government”. Currently, the total member of staff and faculty members is 112, including 47 full-time professors and doctoral supervisors. These members work jointly to produce the deliverables in accordance with the societal needs.
There are 4 provincial/ministerial key laboratories (e.g., “Key Laboratory of Bio-based Material Science and Technology of Ministry of Education”) as well as 6 national or provincial research/engineering/experimental centers. During 2012-2015, the research milestones include “Compounding and Extrusion of Wood-plastic Composites”, “Engineering of Wood Veneer on the basis of Cell-wall/lumen Modification”, “Biomimetics as a Basis for the Fabrication of Bio-based Hydrophobic Materials”, etc., which won lots of research awards, including 2 second-class National Science and Technology Progress Awards, and 18 provincial/ministerial awards. During this period, the book “Wood Science” authored by Prof. Li Jian (member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering) and other faculty members was accredited by the Ministry of Education to be the textbook for graduate students. Other important data from the years 2012-2015 are: (1) doctoral degrees and master’s degrees were awarded to 134 doctoral students and 246 master’s students; (2) more than 350 peer-reviewed scientific papers were published in journals included in Web of Science; (3) 128 patents were awarded; (4) 45 academic monographs were published; (5) more than 150 research grants (the National Key Technology R&D Program, the National 863 Program, the Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation, the Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities, the Heilongjiang Provincial Program for Distinguished Young Scholars, etc.) were obtained, with a total funding level of 0.14 billion RMB.
The “Forestry Engineering” program at NEFU has been widely recognized. In China, NEFU is among the first to be certified for postdoctoral enrollment. The first “Chang Jiang Scholar Program” in the “Forestry Engineering” sector was practiced by NEFU. Other examples of key programs associated with NEFU’s “Forestry Engineering” discipline are: (1) the Program of Introducing Professionalsof Discipline to Universities (State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs), (2) the Distinguished Engineers Program (Ministry of Education), (3) the“985” Key Discipline Program (Ministry of Education), and (4) the Program for Sustainable Development of Disciplines (Ministry of Education). NEFU also serves as the host university for “Chinese Association of Forestry: Sub-association of Wood Science”, “Chinese Association of Forestry: Sub-association of Forest Engineering”, “Chinese Association of Forestry: Northeastern China Committee of the Sub-association of Wood Industry”, and the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Forest Engineering”. Besides teaching and research, the faculty members have played an essential role in a wide spectrum of scientific or teaching-related committees, non-profit organizations, technical associations, and peer-reviewed scientific journals.
NEFU’s “Forestry Engineering” programs have been engaged in fruitful international collaborations withmore than 20 foreign countries/districts, including the United States, Canada, France, and Japan. In particular, doctoral education is a critical component of these collaborations. In recent years, 4 international students received their degrees on the basis of the “Forestry Engineering” programs, and 4 doctoral students are currently studying for their degrees. During 2012-2015, 30 Chinese graduate students were engaged in these programs, and indeed they benefited a lot from the research trainings at world-leading institutions in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc. It is evident that the internationalization of graduate education in terms of trainings and collaborations would provide a useful basis for steeping forward to new opportunities and breakthroughs.