National Taiwan University of Science and Technology
Q: Could you please describe your current work at the Taiwan Tech School of Engineering?
Iman: I am hired as Assistant Professor at the College of Engineering where I am teaching in the “International Advanced Technology Program (IATP)”, that is a relatively new English-taught undergraduate program for international students. I am teaching basic courses like calculus, basic math, and a course on materials sciences. I am also a mentor for the students and I am part of the curriculum team.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the challenges that international students are facing?
Iman: They come to a new environment, and most of them don’t speak Chinese. So, they really need a person to talk to, someone who understands their situation and their problems. Also, because I am teaching basic courses, I am quite close to the new students, I can see what problems they have, academically or with adapting to life here. I am also in charge of arranging internships with Taiwanese companies for them which is an integral part of this program.
Q: What were your reasons to come to Taiwan for study?
Iman: I had already graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from my university in Indonesia, the lnstitut Teknologi Bandung in 2011, when I was invited to join an information session by Taiwan Tech at our university. My professor at the ITB said that I should not miss the chance to further my studies in Taiwan. When I received a personal phone call from Taiwan Tech offering me a scholarship for a Master’s program in Material Sciences, I accepted. At that time, Taiwan was not well known as a destination for study, most students at ITB would only consider Europe, the US or Japan. So, this recruitment initiative by Taiwan Tech was really important to convince me to come to Taiwan.
Q: After your Master’s, you gained a PhD degree in Material Sciences at Taiwan Tech. What were your experiences with the PhD education at Taiwan Tech?
Iman: My PhD project was quite challenging because I started to work with biomaterials without having a background in biology. I had to learn some completely new skills and methods. Taiwan Tech had state-of-the-art laboratories and all the equipment that I needed, but it was quite hard in the beginning. I had an excellent supervisor, Professor Yang Ming-Chien, who encouraged me to pursue interdisciplinary research. He was always very straightforward and frank in his feedback, that was also interesting for me. I must say that this kind of interdisciplinary research, and thus my whole academic development would not have been possible in Indonesia at that time.
Q: Why did you decide to continue your career in Taiwan after you graduated from Taiwan Tech in 2018?
Iman: I wanted to continue with a post-doc in Professor Yang’s lab, but at that time there was no funding for a post-doc position. Then, the opportunity came up to apply for an Assistant Professorship within the IATP. My current work does not only give me the chance to gain teaching experience, I can also learn a lot about university administration, research funding through the Taiwan government, academia-industry-cooperation etc. There is a lot to learn from Taiwan, and I want to build on these experiences when I go back to Indonesia at some time in the future.
Q: What kind of advice would you like to give to international students who consider to come to Taiwan for a Master’s and PhD?
Iman: I think it is really important to prepare well for a stay in Taiwan. Prospective students should not just look at the program they want to enroll in, but at the whole education system, the society, the political environment. They also need to know the road map of their education, which skills they want to learn, what impact they are expecting from education. I would usually recommend to complete a Master’s degree in Taiwan before enrolling in a PhD program here, but that depends also on the university in Indonesia. It is possible for Indonesian Master-degree holders to directly apply for a PhD in Taiwan, but they should take a close look at the program and the department in Taiwan to see if they fit the requirements.
Q: You are a Muslim and you are living here in Taiwan with your wife and daughter. How do you feel about life for people of Muslim faith at Taiwan Tech and in Taipei?
Iman: The environment for Muslims was already quite good when I first came here, and it is continuously improving. I think, the Southbound Policy by the Taiwan Government is the main reason why Taiwan has become much more Muslim friendly now. In general, acceptance for people of other religions and cultures is growing, Taiwan has become so colorful in recent years. It is turning into an inclusive society, that’s really good to see!