On the 23rd of September 2022, the Thesis Writing Class conducted by Professor François, under the Global Human Resource Management English MBA program, invited Professor Timo Eccarius from the Tunghai University, International College, as a guest speaker to talk about his journey of conducting his thesis research in the field of Railways and Sustainable Transportation.
Starting his sharing with a quick introduction of his background. Having a Ph.D. in Transportation & Logistic Management and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics/Economics, Professor Timo has previously worked in the railway industry in Germany for 13 years before coming to Taiwan. During his stint in Germany, he worked on a couple of projects such as the China-EU rail link which aims at reducing Carbon footprint and low-carbon rail products. Moving on, he painted a picture of the railway industry and the carbon emission from the various mode of transportation to the students. Through the Deutsche Bahn 2018 Integrated Report, it was shown that railway transportation produces the lowest carbon footprint in comparison to other transport like airplanes, cargo, etc. With the increase in awareness of global warming, the railway industry faces strong pressure from the public to push toward creating sustainable transportation with the ultimate goal of being carbon-free.
Professor Timo continued his sharing by giving some tips to the students on how to look out for possible topics for their study/research. Quoting him, “Follow your passion, fight for your idea, and trust your advisor”. One of the most important tips he mentioned was to choose a topic that aligns with your passion. Using his journey of how he did his Ph.D. thesis as an example, he recalled the numerous discussions he had with his thesis advisor. “You should expect that during the discussions, there are bound to be conflicting ideas from both parties. There may even be times when you have to stand your ground and defend your thesis research”. As such, having a thesis topic that you are passionate about would help in such challenging times.
Another tip that he mentioned was the formulation of research questions is often an iterative process. As you go along with your thesis research, you should start to narrow down the area that you would like to focus on. One reason for this is the limitation of access to data. Having a broad or general research topic can be challenging as you may not have access to the resources needed to help build the core of your research. Even if you pool data from different sources can be problematic as the results may not be compatible or comparable with each other. With that in mind, having keywords to help specify the key areas of your research would help to ease the load when you conduct your study.
Addressing some of the questions raised by the students, one particular question hit close to the heart of Professor Timo, and perhaps, many other international students at NSYSU. “As a foreigner conducting research in Taiwan, what were some of the challenges he faced?”. When he was conducting his research in Taiwan, language proves to be one of the biggest hurdles. Having to deal with software and creating questionnaires/surveys in the Chinese language can be quite difficult for foreigners who are not proficient in the language itself. Thankfully, with the advancement of technology, the use of programs such as “Google Translate” can help to ease the pain. It is also good to seek help from your peers or advisor if you encounter any issues.