Yufei Zou, Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

December 31, 1969 |

Yufei Zou worked as an environmental engineer in Shanghai before coming to Georgia Tech in 2012. In that role, he provided environmental-modeling and air-quality-forecasting services to the 24 million residents of Shanghai every day. Being an air-quality forecaster in China is challenging, Yufei says. “It requires dealing with lots of information and uncertainties in meteorology and atmospheric chemistry.” To advance his career, he went abroad for a Ph.D.

Yufei learned about Georgia Tech while he was an undergraduate student at Peking University, in Beijing. The founding dean of the College of Environmental Sciences there was C. S. Kiang, formerly a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

Kiang was dean from 2002 to 2006, “when China started to transform its economic development mode from extensive growth – with high energy consumption and pollution – to a more sustainable way,” Yufei says. “As a pioneer and advocate for a green economy in China, Professor Kiang built a bridge for environmental studies between Peking University and Georgia Tech. That’s how Georgia Tech became my first choice for graduate study abroad.”

In addition to a B.S. degree from Peking University, Yufei came to Georgia Tech with an M.S. degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He leaves with a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

From the ordinary to the extraordinary. I learned from many faculty members and students that to be a Yellow Jacket means commitment and pursuit of excellence.

As a renowned research center, the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences has many professors and students conducting cutting-edge research in multiple fields – atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, air quality and health, aerosol and clouds, and climate change. Their novel findings inspire and encourage other researchers to discover new knowledge.

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?

The lights in the library. They are always on to illuminate the diligent students of Georgia Tech.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

My advisor, Professor Yuhang Wang, changed my life by offering me the opportunity to come to Georgia Tech. I benefited from his insights and passion for state-of-the-art atmospheric science research. He encouraged me to explore the boundaries of atmospheric sciences, as well as my own potential. These explorations helped make me who I am today.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

The football match of Georgia Tech against Virginia Tech on Sept. 20, 2014, was my first time to watch a live football game. We were at a disadvantage in the first three quarters. But the Yellow Jackets showed great courage and resilience in fighting back from a losing position and won the game.

Besides the game itself, the joyful atmosphere – like a holiday in the campus – left a deep impression on me of the football culture and tradition in the U.S.

What unique learning activities (research abroad, field work) did you undertake?

I participated in the 2014 CESM Tutorial in the Mesa Lab of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). CESM, or the Community Earth System Model, is the major modeling tool I used for my Ph.D. research. During the week I spent in the NCAR Mesa Lab, I learned the skills of Earth system model development and application. This experience benefited my graduate research, which was focused on developing fire models and climate simulation.

What advice would you give to incoming graduate students at Georgia Tech?

Be prepared for setbacks and failures; they are inevitable for your forward path toward success. It is those frustrations and vulnerabilities that make you invincible and indomitable.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am going to be a joint postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington and the U.S. Forest Service in Seattle, Washington. My work will focus on simulating wildfire smoke and modeling air quality, perfectly matching my personal interests and research experience.

I anticipate future collaboration between my postdoctoral research group and my friends and colleagues at Georgia Tech because we have shared research interests. The potential to work together is high.