19 September 2016

2016 YSSPer Yue Qin's Summer Experience

Yue Qin traveled from Princeton to spend this past summer at IIASA to work on environmental implications of China's natural gas policies.  Below she shares her YSSP experience.

My YSSP Summer Snapshots
by Yue Qin

In March 2016, I received an email from IIASA notifying me of being selected to participate in the 2016 Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) within IIASA's Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases Program (AIR). Together with 51 YSSPers from over 30 countries, we spent a remarkable summer (1 June to 31 August) in Laxenburg, Austria, where IIASA is based. Here I capture a few snapshots of my summer experience that I hope will provide some insights to future YSSPers.

IIASA: A wonderful place to conduct interdisciplinary research 

My YSSP project was about China’s natural gas source prioritization based on the air quality-climate-water nexus. Facing severe air pollution, China has been actively pushing forward a higher penetration of natural gas from a variety of sources. Though substituting coal with natural gas generally brings net air quality and associated human health benefits, various sources of natural gas may result in significantly different global climate and regional water impacts. Thus, my project aimed to identify among China’s various natural gas sources, which source should be prioritized or deprioritized based on their integrated environmental impacts. 

My project was interdisciplinary by nature from two perspectives: working at the interface of science and policy, and integrating air quality, water, climate, and energy policies. As I was based in the AIR Program, initially, I was a little bit concerned whether I would actually have the opportunity to interact with people in other programs, particularly in the Water and Energy Programs. 

After my introductory presentation within the group, my IIASA supervisor, Lena Höglund Isaksson and my office mate, Peter Rafaj, helped me to identify and contact the experts in the Water Program, who later generously helped me with my project. Meanwhile, AIR colleagues kindly shared their knowledge and contacts across IIASA whose research is related to mine. Through their help, I had the opportunity to talk to many experts outside of my own field during the summer. Early on, I had difficulties to decently compare water stress across gas scenarios due to the fact that gas production and consumption take place in regions with varying degrees of existing water stress. Laixiang Sun and Klaus Hubacek in the Water Program directed me to the water stress index and generously shared with me the index for China. Thanks to their help, I was able to compare apples to apples. Edward Byers, who holds a joint position in the Water and Energy Programs, was also a great help in connecting me with the resources in the water and energy groups. Andre Deppermann in the Ecosystems Services and Management Program and Joeri Rogelj in the Energy Program also provided helpful suggestions and feedback on improving my work. Within AIR, I also had the opportunity to interact with many of my colleagues, who provided me with valuable help on research designing and method refining. I really appreciate how easy and natural communications and interactions can happen across and within programs at IIASA. This creates a great environment for researchers who are interested in conducting cross-disciplinary projects.  

YSSP: A great platform to build professional networks  

It has been an amazing experience to spend 3 months with such a large cohort of brilliant PhD students from over 30 countries. As most of us were located either in the Liesing or Modling apartments, we spent so much time commuting to work, cooking dinners and traveling within Europe together. We really had the chance get to know one another and become friends through such intensive and personal interactions.

YSSPers organized a variety of social activities among ourselves, such as basketball, volleyball, and hiking. Also, IIASA creates multiple opportunities for YSSPers to interact with IIASA colleagues. For instance, we held celebration parties for each National Member Organization country at IIASA, Asia Day was one of my favorites. We had the chance to enjoy a variety of delicious Asian food and interesting performances. As well as joining our little apple Chinese dancing group, I was also invited by Indian friends’ to join their Bollywood dance group and wear traditional Indian clothes. It was a great culture exposure and a pleasant summer memory. 

In addition to the social activities that build our friendships, we also organized a variety of workshops and brown-bag seminars to share our knowledge and expertise among the group. I was honored to give a brown-bag talk on “International Cooperation VS. National Action Plans: Black Carbon Mitigation” to share my knowledge on short-lived climate forcers mitigation strategies, and received really interesting suggestions and comments from the group. Participating in the workshops on social media, game theory, etc. I was always impressed by the intelligence and capability of our YSSPers. 

One of the highlights of the summer was working on the preparation of the dialogue session with two former presidents Fischer and Halonen. It was a great honor to present during this session as one of the representatives from our group. Behind the scenes, this was really a team effort with rounds of discussions among YSSPers who provided valuable comments and feedback.

Yue Qin with fellow YSSPers at the dialogue session with H.E. Heinz Fischer, former Federal Austrian President, and H.E. Tarja Halonen, Finland’s first female head of state.

This was indeed the best summer I could have ever expected, with all the resources that helped me to pursue my research interests, and all the YSSPers that shared the summer experiences together. The summer is over, but the courage, the friendship, and the memory, we’ll carry on with our journey ahead. Also, I’d really like to take the chance to thank Yuquan Zhang from Shanghai Jiaotong University who generously sponsored my YSSP program and shared with me his YSSP and academia experiences. This summer would not have been possible for me without his support.

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Last edited: 27 April 2017

Publication from Yue's YSSP work

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313