Future Earth Coasts

FEC Dialogue with Female Scientist: Prof. Lin Yuan

Maintain a positive mindset. Even when encountering setbacks and difficulties, it is important to maintain an optimistic and positive attitude, seek solutions to problems, and avoid getting trapped in negative emotions.
—Prof. Lin Yuan

Lin Yuan, Professor at State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, visiting scholar at Duke University in the United States. Her main research focuses on the structure, function, ecological restoration, and responses to global change in coastal wetland ecosystems. She has led over 30 national and provincial-level projects, including the National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Key Research and Development Program, and major projects of the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission. She has also been involved as a key participant in more than 10 national key research and development programs and major projects funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

She has conducted long-term research on the control of invasive species-Spartina alterniflora, restoration of native vegetation, and enhancement of coastal resilience. In the Yangtze River Estuary, she has established demonstration areas for the control of invasive species-Spartina alterniflora and restoration of native vegetation covering over 100 hectares. She has published over 60 research papers in international and domestic journals, including Environmental Science & Technology, Science of the Total Environment, Limnology and Oceanography, and Journal of Environmental Management, as the first or corresponding author. She has authored three books, formulated one local standard in Shanghai, and obtained two invention patents, and two software copyrights. She has been awarded the Second Prize of the Environmental Protection Science and Technology Award and the Second Prize of the Shanghai Marine Science and Technology Award.

Q: What skills and qualities does scientific research require

A: I believe that first and foremost, one must have a curiosity to explore the unknown. Many outstanding scientists possess a strong curiosity about the things or patterns in their field of interest. They are able to generalize things into the most basic, simple, and important principles and use these fundamental principles to understand many other phenomena. They seek to understand the laws governing things and have the ability to see the essence of things. Secondly, perseverance is crucial. In scientific research and experiments, one encounters various challenges, and only through continuous effort and perseverance can one persist until the ultimate success. Additionally, it is important to maintain a rigorous scientific attitude, including seeking truth from facts, objectivity, fairness, diligence, and continuous exploration.

Q: How do you manage your time

A: I have a habit of prioritizing tasks based on their importance and urgency and listing them on a calendar to better manage my time. Based on this information, I prioritize completing urgent tasks with time constraints each day, then allocate my most productive time to important matters, and use scattered time to accomplish relatively trivial tasks. I strive to complete the tasks set for each day on the same day, and I also aim to complete monthly tasks within the same month.

Q: How do you achieve work-life balance?

A: Firstly, it is essential to schedule time effectively to improve work efficiency. During work hours, I concentrate my efforts and enhance productivity, minimizing the time spent on handling daily trivial matters. This enables me to complete work more efficiently and free up more time for other aspects of life. When I return home, I enjoy the feeling of being at home and engage in activities I enjoy to relax both physically and mentally, such as outdoor activities, watching movies, and listening to music. I also value the company of family and friends. Secondly, learning to say no is important. In both work and life, we often face various requests and demands. If we accept too many requests and demands, we may become overwhelmed and experience an imbalance between work and life. Therefore, for matters that are unrelated to my responsibilities or in areas where I am not proficient, I kindly refuse unnecessary requests and demands and strive to accept only those that are truly important and valuable. Another important point is maintaining a positive mindset. Even when encountering setbacks and difficulties, it is important to maintain an optimistic and positive attitude, seek solutions to problems, and avoid getting trapped in negative emotions. A positive mindset allows us to better cope with challenges in work and life, thus achieving a better balance between the two.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in scientific research?

A: The Nobel Prize in Medicine medal bears the inscription “To make discoveries that make life better.” I believe this embodies the significance that motivates scientists to continue conducting scientific research. As the writer Romain Rolland once said, “To know only half of the truth by one’s own efforts is much better than knowing the whole truth by echoing others.” For me, through field observations, simulation experiments, and data analysis, I gain a better understanding of the natural laws governing important coastal wetland ecosystems around us. The key technologies developed for the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands provide technical support for ecosystem conservation. The students I train can continue to contribute to the development of their respective disciplines and local ecological conservation in their positions. All of these achievements make me feel incredibly proud and continue to inspire me to explore further on the path of scientific research.

Q: Have you ever been anxious? What are the sources of anxiety? How do you relieve anxiety?

A: Of course, there have been challenges. For example, while waiting for the results of project applications, when there are conflicts between work and family affairs, and during periods of high work pressure. At such times, I sometimes confide in my family or friends about my concerns and seek their encouragement and assistance. Occasionally, I work together with students in field observations and sampling, and being in nature makes you realize that the difficulties you are currently facing are not significant and will pass. What we need to do is find solutions to problems and embrace each new day with hope. Furthermore, I sometimes choose to engage in activities I enjoy to relax my mind, such as practicing calligraphy, playing the guzheng (Chinese zither), drinking tea, and listening to music.

Q: In what ways do you think we can help women overcome entrenched hurdles and build a career

A: Firstly, providing women with professional training and guidance would be beneficial, enabling them to acquire specialized skills to engage in relevant work. Secondly, considering that women may have family planning considerations during their careers, it would be appropriate to extend the age limits for female scientists applying for projects with age restrictions or to extend the duration of postdoctoral positions, among other measures. Thirdly, organizations can provide more care and assistance to women, and families can offer more encouragement and support.

Q: What would you say to a woman who wants to go into research in the same field as you?

A: I would say, “Welcome to join!” Knowing the challenges that female researchers face when engaging in coastal ecology research, such as frequent fieldwork, challenging working environments, and the need for interdisciplinary research, I would do my best to provide help and support to female researchers around me. Currently, I am indeed helping them in various ways.


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