Research student receives top Chinese government award

Xia (Emma) Liang has received a prestigious 2018 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad from the China Scholarship Council.

The award is given by the Chinese government to graduate students studying outside China who do not receive government financial support, based on a record of outstanding accomplishment in their research higher degree in any discipline. It includes a certificate and a one-time payment of $USD6,000.

She is one of 55 students in Australia to receive the award for 2019. While around 500,000 students leave China for overseas study each year, only 500 awards are given globally, making them highly competitive.

Xia (Emma) Liang
During the course of her PhD, Xia (Emma) Liang has developed new ways to measure the environmental impact of human activities.

Ms Liang applies a comprehensive assessment on how human activities affect the nitrogen cycle and impact the environment from national (Australia) to global scale.

Her PhD work has initiated a new field of research: measuring the nitrogen footprint of agricultural production systems and natural resource ecosystems both nationally and internationally.

The nitrogen footprint is a similar concept to the commonly understood carbon footprint, which helps individuals and producers to understand how much nitrogen their activities release to the environment.

Nitrogen released to the environment through agriculture, power generation, transport and other human activities can have negative effects on environmental and human health and produce the powerful nitrogen-based greenhouse gasses nitrous oxide and methane.

Her research has also included the development of a new indicator – reactive nitrogen spatial intensity (NrSI) – that accounts for the geographical location of nitrogen loss to the environment and could be used as benchmark to set priorities to mitigate reactive nitrogen pollution.

She has published papers in Global Environmental Change, Scientific Reports and the Journal of Cleaner Production, in which she and co-authors calculated the nitrogen footprint of the University of Melbourne, demonstrating the potential of the nitrogen footprint as a tool for an institution to assess and monitor the sustainability of its operations and governance.

Ms Liang said:

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my wonderful parents, admirable supervisors, invaluable colleagues, and amazing friends for being extremely inspiring and supportive. I am not even able to finish this thank-you list but all of them contributed to the award and enriched the colour of my life.”

Ms Liang is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Sustainable Agriculture) in the School of Agriculture and Food and will graduate with a PhD in July 2019, supervised by Professor Deli Chen.

Deputy Head of School (Research and Research Training) at the School of Agriculture and Food, Professor Jizheng (Jim) He, congratulated Ms Liang for her success.

“The School of Agriculture and Food is proud of the success of Xia Liang in receiving this prestigious award. She joins recent recipients from the School, Dr Rui Liu in 2015 and Dr Xiuzhen Shi in 2017.”

You can read more about Ms Liang’s research on the University of Melbourne’s research news website, Pursuit.