Leilei Ruan

Like many Ph.D. students, LeiLei Ruan was attracted to MSU by the opportunity to work with a top researcher. For Ruan, this researcher was Phil Robertson from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

Ruan had first read Robertson’s work as a university student in China. Although Ruan had initially committed to attending the University of Edinburgh in England, he dropped his plans when Robertson invited him to MSU. “I was so excited!” said Ruan.  

Before coming to MSU, Ruan had completed his bachelor’s in land resource management and his master’s in soil science, both in China, his home country.

Ruan now lives at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) where he conducts his research. KBS is a research field station located about 65 miles from MSU’s main campus and supports research in ecology and agriculture as well as education for all levels.

China is a long way from Michigan, but Ruan said that living at KBS is like being part of “an informal family” that is “really supportive and friendly.” Most of Ruan’s research is part of the Long-Term Ecological Research Program. The program is part of a nationwide project to study the ecology of intensive field crop ecosystems and has been funded at KBS since 1988 by the National Science Foundation.

More specifically, Ruan is studying the effects of nitrogen fertilizers on greenhouse gas emissions, a project that will help to maximize crop productivity while reducing emissions. In another research project, Ruan examines biofuel crops. “Most people think that if we use biofuel crops, what we burn doesn’t increase or decrease carbon in the atmosphere,” said Ruan. His research studies that question.

“China has a large population; that’s the reason I chose agriculture,” said Ruan. “[My research] can help to feed people.” He describes his decision to study in the U.S. as an opportunity to gain a different perspective. Ruan sees joining ESPP as part of expanding this perspective and also learning the important tools needed to create policy to help solve these problems.

“I want to understand how U.S. scientists handle environmental problems,” said Ruan, “so that maybe I can use [those solutions] in China or other countries.”