A statement from President Peter Goodwin on UMCES’ commitment to diversity

Next Generation: Wenfei Ni

January 9, 2020

Name: Wenfei Ni
Advisor: Ming Li, Horn Point Laboratory

What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on the impacts of regional climate change and watershed nutrient management on Chesapeake Bay dead zones. With the state-of-the-art numerical model, I make projections of Chesapeake Bay oxygen depletion condition in the mid-21st century. I also use statistical models to interpret the historical trend and understand past effects of climate change.

What influenced your career path in science?
I used to study the movement of sand and mud particles on an offshore tidal flat as a master’s graduate student until I witnessed a massive macroalgae bloom on a research vessel which caused many environmental problems. It stimulated my interest and made me decide to continue scientific research on a different topic—physical and biological marine environmental issues—during my Ph.D. study. 

Why did you choose to study with your mentor at UMCES?
UMCES is prestigious university in the environmental research of estuarine and coastal oceans and their watershed and values the interdisciplinary study on solving some of the most pressing issues in our oceans and lands. As a physical oceanographer at the Horn Point Laboratory, Ming Li has been actively engaged in interdisciplinary research projects, using coupled modeling to investigate how physical processes affect hypoxia, ocean acidification, and harmful algal blooms. This matched well with my research interest and was the main reason I came to UMCES.

What is an experience that stands out most to you about your time at UMCES?
I became part of the tour guide team at the Horn Point Laboratory in 2016 and have been communicating with visitors on how our scientists are conducting research to restore the Chesapeake Bay since then. Talking with people who want to take action as stewards to save the bay is absolutely an amazing experience to me.

What is the most important thing people can do to help the environment?
“Many a little makes a mickle.” Every little thing in daily life would help to make a change, such as turning off the light when you leave the room and printing on both sides of paper.

Do you have advice for kids in the next generation who are interested in STEM fields?
I think any kid who is interested in STEM fields should seek opportunity to be involved in STEM. These can be after school programs, camps, and thousands of online resources that can be easily accessed. Volunteering in a lab or non-profit organization activity on a STEM topic would also help kids find their strength and interest.

Have you received a scholarship, grant, travel award or gift from a donor? What did it allow you to do and why was that important?
I received the UMCES Presidential Fellowship during 2014-2015. It supported the first two years in my Ph.D .study and offered flexibility for me to explore my potential research topic.

Do you have advice for kids in the next generation who are interested in STEM fields?
I think any kid who is interested in STEM fields should seek opportunity to be involved in STEM. These can be after school programs, camps, and thousands of online resources that can be easily accessed. Volunteering in a lab or non-profit organization activity on a STEM topic would also help kids find their strength and interest.

What are your future plans?
I passed my PhD dissertation defense in December of 2019. Starting in February I will be working as a Knauss Fellow in Washington, D.C.. The Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is a Sea Grant program that provides one-year of educational and professional experience working with government agency on the latest issues in marine resources management. I was placed in the NOAA OAR Climate Program Office, where I will have the opportunity to learn climate change research at NOAA laboratories and cooperative institutes. I will also help the competitive funding programs at Climate Program Office. Through this experience I hope to expand my professional network, develop new scientific skills, and gain experiences working in collaborative teams.

In the future, I hope to work with a government or conservation agency to manage and resolve coastal environment issues. Looking for a post-doc position will be an alternative plan since I enjoy doing research and want to explore further on how climate change would affect coastal environment.