Friday, September 16, 2016

International Fellow Spotlight: Yu Lei from China

Where are you from?

Beijing, the capital of China, which is located in northern China. Beijing is the third most populated city in the world with 20 million people. I work at the Chinese Academy of Forestry as a manager of one of its 22 research centers.

You’ve been here in the United States for three months so far. Tell us a little bit about your journey.

This is my first time in the U.S. I flew from Beijing to Seattle, which took about 12 hours. My journey was much easier than many of the other Fellows!

What attracted you to the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program?

One of my colleagues in China had very positive things to say about his Fellowship experience last year, so I decided to apply. In China – as a developing country – we can learn much from the U.S. in terms of how forestry research is accomplished.

What’s on your wish list of things to accomplish while working at the World Forestry Center?

I want exposure to other forestry research centers. Research centers are a newer development in China, only a couple decades or so in existence. I plan to spend time at the Oregon Wood Innovation Center. It’s part of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. The research center is a bridge between industry and academia by providing new technologies to companies. The companies then apply those innovations to people’s everyday lives.

In China, my goal is to strengthen the relationships my research center has with the industry by helping them understand the model of the relationship in the U.S. There are cultural barriers and very little cooperation happening now between the research centers and industry. My goal is to help raise awareness to eventually increase trust and give both sides an understanding of what’s possible through stronger working relationships. Ultimately, this will help us become more competitive in the global marketplace.

What’s one of your observations so far about Oregon?

The forest coverage in OR can reach almost 55%, which is quite high. That makes it very pleasant to live here. The forest minimizes noise and air pollution and provides shade. In Beijing, coverage is 30%. There are much fewer trees in the center of Beijing, so people don’t feel very comfortable in the summertime. The biggest problem in Beijing is the haze, which has resulted from population growth, increased use of coal to heat homes in the winter, and traffic. It’s hard just to breathe. We have to wear masks. China started addressing this problem five years ago.

What’s on your personal wish list?

This is my first time in the U.S., so I want to see New York City, stand in Times Square and Wall Street, and visit the Statue of Liberty.

What else can you tell us about yourself?
In China, we put our last name first and then our given name. It’s part of our culture to show respect for our ancestors. So for example, we refer to Michael Phelps as just “Phelps.” People thought my first name was Yu when I first arrived to Portland. So I have been introducing myself here as Lei. It’s part of my American experience to go by first name. And it’s a convenience for people here.

You can contact Lei directly at

If you are interested in inviting Lei to speak with your organization or at an event, please contact International Fellowship Program Manager Shadia Duery at