Yi Liu, a postgraduate student of Management of Bioeconomy, Innovation and Governance and an Edinburgh Earth Fellow reflects on his path to answering the question of what he can do for society and his journey to the Edinburgh Earth Initiative.

Edinburgh Earth Fellow Yi Liu

From China to Edinburgh – finding answers to his ‘ultimate life question’

As someone who strongly believes that people can discover their preferences by giving different things a try, Yi has been doing exactly this throughout his academic career.

While completing a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at the Capital University of Medical Sciences, China, he worked as a doctor’s assistant and a laboratory technician while he also continued to embrace opportunities that came his way, including enrolling in several summer schools.

It was at one of these summer schools at the University of British Columbia, Canada, that he undertook a Biochemistry and Society course. This course opened his eyes to the sociological impacts of the application of technology.

Ever since, his interest in the field has grown and he is enthusiastic about a future where the benefits of technology will be optimised, and its negative consequences minimised as much as possible.

Becoming an Earth Fellow

To Yi, coming to the University of Edinburgh to undertake a Master’s degree in the Management of Bioeconomies, Innovation and Governance broadened his understanding of climate emergencies and solidified his interest in creating change in these areas.

With his lived experiences of climate change, the opportunity to join the Edinburgh Earth Initiative did not pass him by.

“I was interested in the research potential of becoming an Earth Fellow. When I saw the opportunity, I realised I could bring my knowledge, past experiences with climate change and dedication to tackle real-world challenges to the Initative. I had a gut feeling that with this, I’d be reaching closer to finding the answer to the question of ‘What can I do for society?’ that I have been asking myself for some time now.”

Reducing waste in medical practices

Yi is working on the Medical Waste project which explores the regulatory history of single-use plastic in medical settings. He is enthusiastic about the skills and expertise he can contribute to this incredible research.

Aside from the use of conventional plastics in a domestic environment like plastic bags or appliances, the use of plastic for medical purposes operates in a distinct way.

“The medical sector consumes tonnes of plastic everyday, from tubes to testing kits, making single-use plastics in the medical setting an emerging threat to our planet. The more we understand the key moments and events that shaped this, the stronger capacity we will have to give solutions or recommendations to address this emerging problem.”

Why is the Edinburgh Earth Initiative so important?

Yi believes that unviersities are one of the best places to learn about climate change. And to him, the Edinburgh Earth Initiative’s most critical achievement is involving young people in climate research.

“The Edinburgh Earth Initiative is crucial because it gets young people involved. It gives students a chance to participate in climate research and it embraces people from completely different interdisciplinary, cultural and academic backgrounds. This is unique and it gives people like me a chance to influence the next generation to think and act with a deeper sense of environmental responsibility.”

What’s next?

After his fellowship, Yi hopes to work in regulatory affairs where he can address the issue of governance in emerging or existing technologies, with a particular interest in medical technologies.

In the longer term, he’d like to accumulate useful practical knowledge and identify gaps in regulation or legislation where he could effect real change to society through policy.

Yi’s openmindedness is not limited to academics and research, it extends to sports, food, and languages. During his spare time, he enjoys spending time playing Badminton at the University of Edinburgh Pleasance Sports Centre where he has also met and made friends from different backgrounds and different cultures.