Yiwei Shang – Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography

The USC Dornsife Ph.D. Academy supports Dornsife Ph.D. students to help them thrive during each year of their Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. Academy wants to highlight the amazing students that are a part of our unique community.

This month’s student spotlight is on Yiwei Shang, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Program in the Department of Biological Sciences. He is also a 2021 USC Wrigley Institute Graduate Fellow.

What is your current scholarship/research focus?
I am advised by Dr. Sergio Sañudo-Wilhelmy and my current research focuses on understanding the distribution pattern and concentration level of various B vitamins, a group of essential organic metabolites required by all life forms, in the global surface ocean. I also work to establish the role of B vitamins in shaping the phytoplankton species composition, which ultimately drives carbon export into depth, a pressing issue related to climate change. My research efforts at USC Wrigley last Summer can be found in this blog.

Working on land (in a lab at USC)

What is one piece of advice you received as a Ph.D. student that has stayed with you throughout your degree thus far?
Effective time management is extremely important in pursuing a Ph.D. degree, and also in carrying out a research project to success. That’s obviously easier said than done, but the key takeaways are prioritizing your tasks and distributing your energy wisely. For example, if you feel you are more productive when writing in the morning, you can try to block that time slot for writing and protect it from other tasks, rather than just sit in the office and spend the whole morning dealing with emails and having nothing else done. I learned this from one of my professors and I found it very helpful.

How has your experience in the Ph.D. Academy helped you as a Dornsife Ph.D. student? In what ways did the Ph.D. Academy impact or help your scholarship or research?
Through the Ph.D. Academy events, I realized we have so many resources available to Ph.D. students at Dornsife. Funding opportunities, research platforms, people I can go to when assembling my committees, etc. The panelists in those events shared their unique experiences without reservation, which could provide me with some guidance if I encounter similar problems. In addition, the networking part of the Ph.D. Academy is invaluable. Talking to people from different departments can be inspiring, I received useful tips even from people outside of my discipline just because we all use R programming (a programming language).

Could you share a few of your interests and passions?
I am obsessed with the ocean because of the enormous biodiversity, and I enjoyed working at sea. Until now, over 80% of the ocean on Earth is unexplored, we know very little about the ocean’s interior that is deeper than 200 meters. So why not become an oceanographer? That is where my passion lies.

Working at sea

How has your summer been so far? 
I recently completed the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute: The Making of Modern Brazil. The three-week institute fostered the creation of an interdisciplinary intellectual community focused on learning and sharing ideas about contemporary Brazil. We wrestled with how to understand Brazil’s historical and contemporary inequalities and their relation to geographical, social, racial, and gender divides.