LIN NI-JUNG or Judy for European friends, is a plant breeder passionate who joined our courses for the first semester of 2022 in the framework of the Double Master Degree in Plant Breeding (emPLANT+).
In this interview, she shares her experience.
Hi Judy! Welcome to Italy and University of Milan.
Thanks! I arrived at the beginning of the first semester, in September 2022.
What was your first feeling?
Italy is lovely country. People are extremely friendly, they stroll me around and this is kind of shock, because this is an attitude towards “strangers” that we, the Taiwanese don’t have.
Well, in the EU countries are very different one another.
I know. This was not the first EU country I visited. Last year I was in France, in Beauvais.
My course is an international master course called Em Plant +. It consists of two-year course where the first one you can choose one country and second year another one, among those subscribed into the programme: Sweden, France, Hungary, Italy, Spain.
Cool. Do you move with the same group of students of do you shuffle?
There’s mobility among the students depending on your choice.
Why are you into plant breeding?
I chose it when I was young. The schooling system is different there. Every student has to choose among three macro areas: 1) Literature and Arts, 2) Engineering and 3) Medical Sciences and Biotechnologies. I wanted to become a doctor but I realised that blood scares me.
Ouch. Are you one of those that faint taking a blood test?
Yes, ahahha. So, I moved to plant science. And now, I really love it.
After my bachelor I joined a company and performed some laboratory work trying to extract some plants’ genes, very similar to ginseng, to study and find out some possible good effects of it on human body
Were you in the R&D department?
Yes, in a Taiwanese company.
Which plants did you work with?
Glycine tomentella Hayata …it is not very popular in Europe. It is very similar to ginseng root whose crop is really expensive. We use it in Chinese medicine because it is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for human body and brings iron to it. We have companies that are doing capsules to ease assumption. For us this is also food and we put it into drinks.
How did you end up here in Europe?
I wanted to go back to university. I found this very exiting course in plant breeding and I thought it perfectly matches my profile.
Why do you think plant breeding is important?
Well, imagine that we are 8 billion people in this world. Is there enough food for everybody? We need to investigate how to feed people. Plant breeders can boost production through different farming systems like vertical farming or aeroponic cultivation to save space.
And also modify plants’ genetics to make them more resilient.
This is of paramount importance if you consider how the climate is changing nowadays. We have to study how to make plants stronger and also evaluate which plants are more suitable for a drought climate.
Is agriculture different in Taiwan?
There is once again a huge difference. For Italian the main crop is wheat as you eat pizza and pasta nearly every day. In Taiwan the main ingredient of our eating culture is rice. We have rice crops everywhere….and this is a culture that needs a lot of water. I know here in the Department DiSAA there’s a team of research that is investigating on how to reduce and grow rice using less water. Last summer I remember when the government set up a regulation to give instruction on how to use the water, not to water the plants for example.
Do you have water problems in Taiwan?
What I noticed is that drought and hit are not an issue so far. Despite all, we’re an island. What changed compared to when I was a child is that the season of typhoon is longer now.
Do you get typhoons every year?
At least 4-5. But we’re well organised. We know how to evacuate people quickly.
Last question, one of the thing that shocked you most of Italy?
Well, you can smoke everywhere. In Taiwan we do have areas that are designated to smokers.
In EU you smoke…and drink….too much for me.
Don’t you go out for a Spritz with your colleagues then?
Oh yes, I really enjoy this time. But I am a baby drinker. One drink for me is more than enough and in any case I do prefer to have tea. There is a scientific research that shows that Asians have don’t have the enzyme to process alcohol that therefore stays in the body. That’s why we consume reduce amount of alcohol compared to western people.