November 3, 2017
By: Cindy Ly
Professor Dong Meng is a seasoned Chemical Engineer who joined the MSU family as an Assistant Professor in 2015. His research and programming experience are supported by the papers he has had published such as Crazing of Nanocomposites with Polymer-Tethered Nanoparticles and Reentrant Equilibrium Disordering in Nanoparticle–Polymer Mixtures (a link to the full list can be found at the end of this article). When he is not busy researching for another publication or teaching both graduate and undergraduate students numerical analysis, he likes to take time to exercise via running or working out at the gym. In the past, he played both soccer and basketball recreationally, but with the busy position of a college assistant professor, he simply notes “I don’t have time for hobbies anymore,” with a laugh.
Born in China and with both parents working as Chemical Engineers, Prof. Meng never had a doubt about what academic path he wanted to pursue as an adult. He quickly grasped the curriculum and maintained an above-average academic standing that led him to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. After a short period of time working as a Process Engineer at SINOPEC, Prof. Meng made the decision to travel to the United States to advance his studies. He received a Doctorate degree at Colorado State University in 2009.
After he received his Doctorate, Prof. Meng performed post-doctorate research at the University of California in 2010 and for another five gratifying years at the Ivy League’s Columbia University. During his time at Columbia University in New York City, he not only enjoyed the food of the bustling metropolis (video interview at the end of this article), but also appreciated the diverse array of personalities that composed his academic research team. His area of expertise focused on understanding the fundamental aspects of material properties through computer simulations, which allowed him to join the soft materials research team of Columbia University’s Chemical Engineering department. His team’s research involved explaining the structure property of soft materials (such as polymers) at the molecular level.
When Prof. Meng joined the MSU family in 2015, he was not aware that he was a strong candidate to introduce the benefits of programming to undergraduate and graduate Chemical Engineers. In fall of 2017, in addition to Process Instrumentation and Control, he was assigned to teach Numerical Methods for Chemical Engineering Applications, which is a course that uses software programming to help solve mathematical equations that would be too arduous to solve by hand. While he was teaching the Numerical Methods class, Prof. Meng noticed the lack of strength in the chemical engineering students’ programming skills. Although he holds high regards for the traditional, hand-written techniques students presently use to solve equations, he urges that “with the job market becoming more competitive, it is vital to be strong in numerical analysis and know a programming language, such as Fortran, Matlab, or C, to help your resume stand out. There are many more position opportunities when you have programming skills, like control software.”
When asked if he had any further advice for present and future Chemical Engineering students, Prof. Meng gave the following: “Go to class even if you’re tired or losing interest; it (the effort) will shape your life after graduation. Learn how to understand what the homework problem asks you to solve instead of asking the teacher for an explicit problem statement. It’s important to improve and have a firm grasp on what you’re learning; think abstractly and numerically through problems.” In regard to performing research, he also advised students to have strong reading comprehension skills. “You cannot ask the author (of a research article publication) to explain what they’re writing about.”
Full List of Published Papers:
New York Noodle Shop Interview (at 1:40):