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Sun Jing, a member of the Communist Party of China, graduated from the Department of Earth System Science (DESS), Tsinghua University with a PhD degree in 2023. She studied in the undergraduate program of the School of Atmospheric Sciences of Nanjing University. In 2018, she was recommended to enter the DESS, Tsinghua University to pursue a doctoral degree with Professor Yang Kun as her supervisor. Her main research interests are climate model development, climate change and land-air interaction on the Tibetan Plateau. During her doctoral studies, she published five papers in high-level professional journals such as Remote Sensing of Environment, Journal of Climate and Journal of Hydrometeorology as the first author, of which one was rated several times by ESI as a highly cited paper. She also participated in compiling a monograph and took part in several national-level projects. The honors she has won include "Beijing Excellent Graduate", Tang Lixin Scholarship, Yingcai First Class Scholarship, etc. She serves as a reviewer of several international journals, and has been selected into the "Shui Mu Scholars" program in Tsinghua University.

Scientific research should be both "daring" and "resourceful"

At the summer camp in 2017, struck by the breath-taking splendid scenery of the Tibetan Plateau, Sun Jing chose to join the Tibetan Plateau Climate and Hydrology Team of the DESS, Tsinghua University. Her supervisor Professor Yang Kun instructed her, “Scientific research should be combined with practice, and we should address people’s real concerns, never daunted by difficulties.” At that time, the wetting of the Qiangtang Plateau led to the rapid expansion of lakes in the region, which flooded infrastructure and residential areas such as roads and bridges, drawing wide attention from local governments and academic circles. However, due to the harsh environment and the scarcity of sites on the Qiangtang Plateau, the related research progress went on slowly. Adhering to the scientific research concept of the research group and relying on the courage as a newcomer, Sun Jing chose to study the reason why the Qiangtang Plateau became wet as her first research topic. The biggest challenge of this subject came from the lack of data. To address this problem, Sun spent two years collecting several sets of data and repeatedly verifying the precipitation changes in the Qiangtang Plateau and the external processes affecting it from multiple angles. After more than three years of hard work, this achievement was finally published, drawing extensive attention. “It was beyond my expectation that the first achievement published during my doctoral studies could be noticed by so many people. It was a pleasant surprise, which gave me more courage to tackle difficulties later," said Sun Jing.

"Researchers should not only use models, but also learn to improve them, which is a foundation skill for scientific research." Sun’s supervisor Yang Kun often instructs her this way. As a result, in her second year, Dr. Sun Jing chose to develop the regional climate model of the Tibetan Plateau as one of her research directions despite the daunting challenges it posed. In the process of developing the model, Sun found that on the road of scientific research, having the courage to face difficulties is far from enough, one should also be diligent in thinking and summing up, and should be both "brave" and "resourceful". She spent a year learning the model code, clarifying the structure and familiarizing herself with the principle. On this basis, she found that the soil organic matter in the Tibetan Plateau has stronger water-holding capacity than the organic matter around the Arctic, put forward a new parameterization scheme, and improved the simulation ability of the land surface model and the regional climate model for the Tibetan Plateau. “I was actually a little worried and anxious when I studied the code earlier, and the research proceeded very slowly. But in retrospect, I’m very grateful for that time, because it has smoothed up my follow-up research. As a Chinese saying goes, sharpening the knife does not waste time for cutting firewood. In scientific research we should have a long-term vision.” Sun Jing concluded with emotion. She went on to conclude from her experience that we should be good at thinking about how to improve work efficiency before taking action. "For example, the development of a model is very time-consuming. It often takes a long time to run a set of simulations, so I will repeatedly test the research route before submitting a task, which often gets twice the result with half the effort." She shared.

Sun Jing participates in the defense of her doctoral thesis

Constantly expand the comfort zone in communication and practice

During her doctoral studies, Sun Jing gradually realized that scientific research should not be done alone, but by pooling the wisdom of many people. Therefore, she actively participated in academic exchanges at home and abroad to broaden her horizons and expand her research fields. Thanks to the platform provided by the university and the department, Sun participated in the "Symposium on Water Cycle Observation and Simulation" jointly organized by Tsinghua University and MIT for two consecutive years, during which she established good cooperative relations with scholars from world-renowned universities such as MIT and Harvard University. Additionally, she also participated in many large-scale conferences at home and abroad, such as AGU, and acquired a lot of interdisciplinary knowledge through various forms of communication, constantly injecting new vitality into her own research.

With regard to scientific research, Sun Jing believes that it is necessary to combine theory with practice and write papers on the vast land of our country. In 2021, she went to the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau for summer social practice, and learned the actual needs of the local forecasting department in practice. Through the exchange and discussion with Chief Forecaster Qi Liangbo and Deputy Directing Forecaster Zhao Yuanming, and in the light of her own professional knowledge, she provided some solutions to the forecast problem of rain and snow discrimination. The cooperation results achieved in this period were recognized by peers and accepted for publication, while the detachment she was a part of was awarded the "Tsinghua University Social Practice Gold Medal Detachment".

Sun Jing's summer social practice in Shanghai Meteorological Bureau

In the five years that have passed so quickly on Tsinghua campus, what has impressed Sun Jing most is the friendly teacher-student relationship and the pluralistic, free and vigorous academic atmosphere in the DESS. In the future, she will continue to maintain the open, inclusive and interdisciplinary characteristics of Earth System Science, bravely forging ahead while bearing in mind the Party’s initial aspiration.

Sun Jing participates in education themed “Never Forgetting Our Initial Aspiration and Founding Mission”

Written by Sun Jing

Edited by Wang Jiayin

Reviewed by Chen Yawei, Lu Hui and Geng Rui

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