PhD Profile: Jing Li

Jing LiCurrent Position: Research and Development Mechanical Engineer, GE Global Research Center (Niskayuna, New York)

Undergraduate: BS in Mechanical Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University (China), 2011

Duke MEMS Path: THRUST Masters of Engineering Program—Aerospace Core, 2013; PhD in Mechanical Engineering, 2016

What do you do at your job?

I was trained at Duke in the field of Turbomachinery Aeromechanics, focusing on understanding the vibration of turbomachinery blades due to the interaction between the structure and the flow. I apply this training to my current job at GE Global Research Center, where together with a group of R&D engineers, we use high-fidelity computational fluid dynamic (CFD) predictive tools to design the next-generation of turbo machines. In particular, I apply my expertise to the prediction, analysis, and design of aeroelastic stability of low-pressure turbine blades to ensure safe engine operation.

How did your time at Duke prepare you for your current job?

My education at Duke prepared me for my current job in many ways. First of all, the coursework provided a balance of breadth and depth to equip me with technical knowledge and skills necessary to perform my job functions. Moreover, several Master of Engineering (MEng) introductory courses to management and business fundamentals also prepared me to have a mindset of developing non-technical skills to be more a more effective communicator and team worker. Furthermore, the training, supervision, and mentoring in research given to me by my advisor as well as other collaborating faculty members allow me to develop a strong specialty in my field. Last but not the least, the connections I built from and beyond Duke are also an important asset to the development of my career.

What was the most valuable part of your Duke experience?

What I value the most about my Duke experience is the people I had a chance to come across and interact with. There are several professors in my department that became my role models; I learned invaluable lessons by observing how they teach, mentor, performance research, and conduct themselves. I was constantly challenged by my peers to keep up and do the best I possibly could. I also got inspired whenever I sat in a seminar, attended an event, and struck up a conversation with fellow students from all over the world. They all collectively make my Duke experience unique and invaluable.

What were the most useful courses you took at Duke?

I found most graduate-level mechanical engineering courses in aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, and structural vibration useful. These allowed me to build a strong knowledge of my field. However, my personal favorite has to be MATH 551: Applied Partial Differential Equations and Complex Variables. The course was taught by Thomas P. Witelski, who has faculty appointments in MEMS and in the Department of Mathematics. Prof. Witelski made the course so easy to follow and so engaging!

What advice would you give to someone considering a master's degree in MEMS at Duke?

Attend the recruitment event and visit the campus yourself. This would give you the opportunity to speak with faculty members that you would be interested to work with, interact with the students, and have a look of all the labs, etc. Information gathered through all these experiences could be very important in your decision-making that you cannot have otherwise.

Why did you choose Duke for your MS degree?

I chose Duke because it is highly reputable and because its faculty members in the aeroelasticity research group are some of the most renowned in this field in the world.

What advice would you give to international students who are coming to Duke for grad school?

My advice would be to be present and speak up. Too often international students are either absent or silent. I encourage you to make an effort to be active and attend all kinds of events as much as possible. Every such event is a learning opportunity, even if you are simply present and observing. But gradually, challenge yourself to also speak up and let your voices be heard. By being present and speaking up, you will not only be more respected as an engaged member of the community, but will also feel more confident yourself.

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