Xiaoming Liu

Xiaoming Liu is an assistant professor of geochemistry in the Department of Geological Sciences within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She studies old rocks to better understand Earth’s elemental and isotope behavior and, ultimately, its history.

Xiaoming Liuphoto by Alyssa LaFaro
December 11th, 2019

Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A: While growing up in eastern China, I enjoyed watching stars and wanted to be an astronomer. I knew I wanted to be a scientist of some sort or a detective or policewoman. I eventually realized that all these professions involved problem-solving, which is something I enjoy.

Xiaoming Liu poses next to a seal in the Galapagos

Liu poses with one of the locals in the Galápagos, where she investigated the chemical changes of rocks during weathering and their relationship to nutrients in the soil.

Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

A: I read a book entitled “Interesting Geochemistry” in high school, and I quickly fell in love with the profession. It seemed to combine all my interests in the natural sciences and my love for the outdoors. I am fascinated by traveling somewhere fun to sample rocks and then returning to the lab to conduct experiments to understand how elements and nutrients cycle on Earth.

Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

A: The most challenging problem that comes to mind is student mentoring. Different students come from different family, social, and economic backgrounds and have different personalities, work ethics, and motivation. Mentoring and motivating them throughout graduate or undergraduate education is a perpetual problem that I am still working on.

Q: Describe your research in 5 words.

A: “Elemental cycling of the earth.”

Q: What are your passions outside of research?

A: I played lots of basketball during graduate school and recently switched to club badminton at UNC. I think it is a great way to stay healthy, have lots of fun, and meet new people.

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