Xinfeng Liang assistant professor

Assistant Professor Profile: Xinfeng Liang

December 02, 2020 Written by Adam Thomas | Photo by Xinfeng Liang

Could you give me some background information about yourself?

I got my bachelor degree from the Ocean University of China in 2003, and then I did a research assistantship there for a couple of years. I came to the States in 2007 to pursue my Ph.D. degree at Columbia University where I worked in the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and I got my Ph.D. in 2012.

After that, I moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I worked as a postdoc for about three years. From the beginning of 2016, I started working as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida in the College of Marine Science. Then, on August 1 of this year, I moved here as an assistant professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy.

What is your main area of research?

I’m a physical oceanographer, and I am interested in ocean dynamics, mostly basic things about how the ocean works. I also look at how the ocean is affected and responds to the changing climate. More specifically, I’m interested in the processes occurring in the vertical direction. All my previous work was looking at one major theme, which is the vertical connection and exchange between the upper ocean and the deeper ocean and the related dynamical processes.

There are two major topics that my lab has been working on. The first one is the influence of mesoscale eddies, which can be seen very clearly from satellite measurements. But previous work mostly focuses on their impact on the upper ocean. My research looks at their potential impacts on the physical, biological and the chemical process in the deep ocean. The other topic is the vertical transport of heat, salt and related dynamical processes. In the past few years, I received a few grants to continue the two lines of work.

How did you get interested in physical oceanography?

I got into oceanography kind of by chance. When I was a high school student in China, I joined a national competition about biology knowledge. I did quite well, and then a few universities said they wanted me to go to their universities without taking an examination. In China, there’s a national level exam, everybody has to take the examination and based on your score, you can go to different universities.

I had two choices. One was to go to a university that was the best in my province but I would have had to join a major in biology. The other university was the Ocean University of China, where they offered me the ability to pick any major I wanted.

At that time, I knew nothing about oceanography, but I talked with my teacher in high school and asked what I could do for a career if I got a biology degree. My high school teacher didn’t know quite well about biology, and he basically told me ‘Oh if you get a degree, maybe you can use the knowledge to make some soy sauce or something’ and I said, ‘Oh, well that’s not something I want to do.’ So that’s actually the reason I went to the Ocean University of China and started my marine science career. It was a misunderstanding of biology that pushed me to oceanography.

What have been your impressions of the University of Delaware so far?

The University is quite impressive. There are two things that impressed me a lot. The first is that the oceanography facilities are top notch. At Coast Day I got to see a lot of the facilities and new stuff and it was really amazing. Another thing is that the University is very supportive of their faculty and the colleagues are very collegial. I’m appreciative of the support from the University.

Any interesting hobbies in your free time?

I like reading books, all kinds of books. I used to take a lot of photos, especially when I was a graduate student. I went to the sea a lot to different parts of the World, and I usually carried my camera. Another thing I want to mention is I had the chance to dive to the mid-ocean ridge in the submersible, Alvin, when I was a graduate student about 10 years ago, and I took some interesting photos there.

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