Chang Liu, Ph.D.
Marine Technician and Geochemist
International Ocean Discovery Program
Texas A & M University
From Inner Mongolia to Texas: this shipboard laboratory technician assists scientists conducting researching for the International Ocean Discovery Program.
trapped at sea
When Chang was a child in China, his first experience with English was when his parents brought him to a class with an American teacher. “It was kids just talking, speaking English.” It wasn’t until he studied in the U.S. doing his masters and Ph.D. that he became fluent. “During that time I had a lot of American friends, and we always hung out and watched shows together. They correct my pronunciation and some of the grammar. That contributes a lot.”
TRAPPED AT SEA?
Chang’s job involves going to sea for two months at a time. He says, “It’s a test for myself, how do you handle this? So far so good, I think I’m still okay, I’m enjoying the time at sea. Everyone took care of each other and everyone helps each other.” The sea stints offer some welcome isolation and time to focus on work. “I lose fun time like shopping or going out, but also on the sea I’m focused on one thing, just do my work, sometimes reading some research papers, and I feel like that’s even more helping me to concentrate on what I like to do.”
When Chang gets tired aboard the ship, he goes to the gym. “Exercise helps me keep high efficiency!” Consider Change to Chill for Athletes.
Two months on the JR, two months on shore in College Station, Texas — with occasional trips home to China to update his visa. Chang spends his off-ship time staying on top of new technology and projects for the International Ocean Discovery Program. “These projects mainly focus on improving the instruments aboard. For instance, we have this new xray image instrument being deployed (installed) aboard the JR.” It’s the first time the JR has had this type of instrument that gives a 3-D view of what the inside of the core looks like. “I’ve heard the results are really exciting. Scientists really like the results,” Chang says. Getting on top of innovations on shore is important to him so he can use his ship time working with scientists to get the data they need.
Back home, Professor Pinxian Wang told Chang about the IODP, encouraging him to get involved. But Chang’s first advisor in the U.S. told him she didn’t think he was cut out to be a Ph.D. When she assembled a cohort of graduate students and left him out, Chang was forced to look elsewhere for mentorship.
Now he talks about the importance of seeking out the right advisor: “Our knowledge system is like a radiolarian (a sea creature with many appendages): it reaches out in all directions. When we’re in elementary school or high school we’re at the very center, learning just a small part, but as you go higher in your education the field seems huge. So by the time you’re in graduate school you need someone to tell you, which direction you’re going and how you’re going to break through that to make new findings or discoveries. If you’re only by yourself — well, I can’t deny there’s geniuses — but for most of the people it’s really hard to figure out what the picture is like. So you’re looking at this big ball, but you really need someone to tell you, this pinpoint here is what you need, this is where your interest is, you need this person to give you a suggestion.
Read an interview with Chang aboard the JOIDES Resolution here.