Postdoctoral Fellow Liang Feng has been selected by the Northwestern University Postdoctoral Association (NUPA) as the Postdoc of the Month for December 2021. As part of the selection process, Liang was interviewed by NUPA on his work, mentorship in the Stoddart Group, and personal life outside the Research Palace. Liang’s interview appears below. Congratulations Liang!
How would you introduce yourself? (Designation, Place of origin, other personal details, Academic history – undergrad, PhD, etc.)
My name is Liang Feng, and my given name Liang means bright in English. I grew up in a small town in Hubei Province in central China and attended the local schools before entering Wuhan University, where I graduated with a B.Sc. in Chemistry in 2016. I received undergraduate training in the research groups at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). I earned my Ph.D. in August 2020, during a period in the pandemic, from Texas A&M University (TAMU) under the supervision of Professor Hong-Cai Joe Zhou. In September 2020, I joined the group of Sir Fraser Stoddart at Northwestern University (NU) as a postdoctoral fellow, aiming to develop the next generation of active materials that address the current climate, energy, and environmental challenges.
How has it been working with Sir Fraser Stoddart, a Nobel Laureate, for a Postdoc? Or how has your journey to Northwestern University been?
Sir Fraser Stoddart has been my role model since the beginning of my chemistry journey, and I have dreamed for years of having opportunities to work with him. So, it was a remarkably satisfying experience for me because my dream finally came true. I am impressed by his passion, openness, and dedication to science and research and benefit tremendously from him because he is and will always be providing his full support to the younger generation of scientists by offering research freedom and resources. Although it has only been slightly more than one year for me at NU, I, with Sir Fraser and other team members, have achieved a lot in research, mentoring, and outreach under such a supportive environment at NU.
Tell us more about your recent article in Science and what are the implications/applications of the work?
In my recent Science article “Active mechanisorption driven by pumping cassettes,” we described our breakthrough in surface science by introducing a new active mode of adsorption. In the 1930s, Irving Langmuir and John Lennard-Jones observed that adsorbates interact with surfaces passively through van der Waals interactions (physisorption) and/or electronic interactions (chemisorption). The observation—passive adsorption—has tremendous impacts in areas of physics, chemistry, materials science, and chemical engineering. In our study, however, we demonstrate that active adsorption was achieved for the first time in addition to the traditional passive adsorption. The active solid we made can smartly identify, grab, and store molecules away from equilibrium on its surfaces, providing an entirely new way to store and manipulate energy, information, and matter that have never been imagined before. This active mode of adsorption, namely mechanisorption, offers transformative approaches for addressing today’s challenges in the gas industry, catalysis, energy storage, and environmental remediation.
When you’re not busy with research, what do you like to do?
I believe it is essential to keep a work-life balance and manage time efficiently during postdoctoral research. I enjoy traveling. I find it joyful exploring the beautiful scenery, diverse foods, and new places and cultures worldwide. For me, traveling is an effective way to refresh my mind and recharge from burnout. Besides, I like cooking, reading books, and watching movies related to history and psychology.
How can we reach you on social media/professional platforms?
Pictured below — NUPA Postdoc of the Month for December 2021 Liang Feng: