Report about research stay by Nan Xiang
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Nan Xiang, a joint master student in the mangrove ecology group at the ZMT. From childhood, I felt deeply attracted to the gorgeous and peaceful sea. Fortunately, I started my master project focusing on coral reefs in Hainan University so that I could study the ocean and marine organisms. Furthermore, I am interested in marine ecology and would like to devote myself to exploring the subject with further research.
2) What motivated you to become a scientist?
Firstly, I would like to start by thanking my two extraordinary mentors Prof. Diao Xiaoping and Dr. Inga Nordhaus. They are both great scientists who inspired me a lot. Prof. Diao is really enthusiastic and firm to perform research despite her other duties. She often sacrificed her spare time to talk with me on my experiments and is always encouraging. The way she believes in me has helped motivate me to finish my master’s degree with passion. I also highly appreciated that Dr. Nordhaus included me in her group and gave me so many constructive suggestions, helping me formulate my research ideas at ZMT. She is so rigorous and clinging on science both in the field and the office. Last but not the least, Dr. Tim Jennerjahn is both calm and approachable. These people have inspired me to continue my work in science so as to be more like them.
3) Can you tell us a bit about your work at the Hainan University, China?
During my study period in Hainan University, I focused my research on coral reef ecology. First, I worked on pollution chemistry. I have analyzed the occurrence and distribution of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in seawater, sediments and corals. Then, I went on to research the toxicological effects of Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) on corals at cellular and molecular levels.
4) Why did you decide to travel to Germany? Why did you choose the ZMT?
Germany is one of the most highly-developed countries in the world, owning the high-quality education. Through the fieldwork with German colleges in Hainan Island (Esther, Lena, Valerie, Marco, Bobby and so on), it impressed me a lot that they were so energetic and friendly. Additionally, Germany is also quiet, comfortable and beautiful which seems excellent for me.
As a member of the Leibniz Association, the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) is a world-famous institute, which investigates tropical and subtropical coastal and marine ecosystems. There are many pieces of advanced scientific equipment and brilliant scientists here. Furthermore, the ZMT is associated with the University of Bremen, which is famous for its marine science work globally.
5) What exactly have you done at the ZMT in Bremen?
During my time at the ZMT, my research focuses on understanding the impacts on Hainan eastern coastal mangrove biodiversity and the complexity of food webs caused by aquaculture. It is really fantastic that I can learn some advanced experimental methods and obtain more creative scientific ideas. The identification of benthic organisms in mangrove ecology and stable isotope analysis are my main experiments here.
6) What troubles did you have preparing your research stay abroad?
As far as I am concerned, the biggest trouble for me is my Visa. Unexpectedly, the visa office asked me to provide a certificate for APS procedure. It was really troublesome that I needed to prepare lots of paperwork and had to wait for the interview for at least three months. I wrote an email to the Visa office many times to prove that I am not enrolled in a German school; fortunately, I got the Visa successfully without APS procedure. Here, I would like to thank my two Visa angles Juyuan Xu and Liu Sang. They are so kind to spare no efforts to help me with that.
7) Do you have any advice for students who are considering a research stay in China/Germany?
It is definitely an excellent experience for students to do some research in a foreign country. It not only broads you insights in research and life, but also provides an opportunity for you to become more independent and brave. The language skill and optimism are both essential, thus, you will not feel lonely or stressful abroad.
8) What surprised you about life in Germany?
Actually, there are so many things that surprised me – that I cannot list them all. When I take the tram to school, most people around me are reading books, so silent and comfortable. While I am working in the office, everyone concentrated themselves on working without any irrelevant things. Lastly, the safe consciousness and regularity for experiments are really strong.
9) How do you like life at ZMT in Bremen?
I enjoyed my research at ZMT, and sincerely want to thank all my colleagues for endless kind help. I joined the Christmas party in ZMT, which is like a warm big family for us. Additionally, when I took part in kinds of scientific seminars in ZMT, many scientists gathered in ZMT, it is an ocean of knowledge.
10) What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully, I will get my master degree in May 2018. Then, I look forward to going abroad for PhD study. I love ocean especially coral reefs; they were so beautiful like the gifts from the god. But the degeneration of them always upsets me; I cannot imagine the ocean without reefs. As the coral reef biologist Dr. Ruth Gates said in the greatest documentary of Chasing coral, “Simplicity on the outside doesn’t mean simplicity on the inside”, I would like to devote myself to exploring deeper of coral reefs in further research, where my strong passion resides.