PhD, civil and environmental engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2017
Areas of expertise and bio
Expertise: Hydrology, water resources management, numerical simulation, coupled natural-human systems
Ruijie Zeng’s hometown played a big role in his choice of a career.
The site of the city of Dujiangyan, China, was originally developed more than 2,200 years ago as an irrigation and flood control district. The project is still in use today, providing water and flood protection for millions of people.
That “engineering miracle,” as Zeng describes it, motivated him to study water resource systems.
Today his research aims at “understanding how climate variability and human decisions interact with each other to shape the hydrologic regimes.”
That goal is critical today because of the increasing impacts of human activities on climate, the natural environment and the hydrologic cycle.
“As human interferences on natural systems become more frequent and more dominant,” Zeng says, “we cannot understand the hydrologic cycle without the anthropogenic (societal) components.”
Zeng sees Arizona State University as an ideal place to do his work because the Phoenix area is in a desert region that “provides a perfect real-world site to study the interactions of climatic, environmental and social drivers for water resources management,” he says.
He was also drawn to ASU by its “great emphasis on breaking the barriers” between academic disciplines and promoting sustainability, which open opportunities for productive research collaborations.
“Water resources management is interdisciplinary,” Zeng says, “so you can talk to and learn from experts from different fields.”
Zeng says students should come to his classes “motivated to learn cool stuff” — for instance, the application of the advanced tools in use today in his field, especially machine learning, statistics and scientific computing.
Outside of teaching and research, Zeng pursues interests that include swimming, playing the flute and driving on canyon roads.