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UMBC Graduate School student Qianqian Song receives NASA research fellowship grant

Qianqian Song, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Atmospheric Physics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), has just been awarded a three-year fellowship grant by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST). She is one of only 59 awardees who were granted this fellowship in the entire United States.

Qianqian will be given $45,000 annually for three years to continue her studies at UMBC with Physics Associate Professor Zhibo Zhang as her adviser. At Dr Zhang’s Laboratory, she will be researching on how dust above the clouds affects the global climate. Previous studies have been done on the short-wave effect of dust blocking radiation from the sun but Qianqian’s study will focus on the long-wave effect.

When she first arrived in the United States in 2014 with her husband who was pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Qianqian said that it was hard at first because it was a big change for them. On top of that, her English wasn’t very good. “But now it’s much better,” she happily relates.

Adjusting to life at UMBC and her new country

After looking at several options, she decided on she decided to pursue her own Ph.D. at the UMBC Graduate School in 2015. “When I first visited, I felt the warm welcome. It seems like everyone knows each other very well and supports each other in the physics department,” she recalls. Due to some issues that she encountered in acquiring her own student visa, she wasn’t able to come in straight away.However, once she got in, she pursued her studies and research rotations with dogged determination. Qianqian plans to pursue a university teaching career after she finishes her PhD.

Today, she has come a long way from being a wife who came to the United States to support her husband’s studies. She went back to school, and more importantly, pursued her own dream to get her own PhD degree – capped by a FINESST Fellowship grant as a tangible symbol of her perseverance and hard work.