Sciences Spotlight inside logo

Wanalu LiWanlu Li, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Chemistry at Saint Peter’s University. Before joining the school, she worked as a postdoc at Columbia University. She earned her doctoral degree in Chemistry at Graduate Center, The City University of New York (2018). Her research interests are in the area of environmental chemistry and chemistry of materials. The focus is on the synthesis of materials that will benefit sustainable development, such as CO2 capture, utilization, and H2 production.

Wanlu was born and grew up in a family of four in the north of China. After the national exam, she was admitted to Binzhou University, where she found her passion in Chemistry and scientific research. Starting college, she became all-round developed and started to learn how to manage time efficiently. She had been a research assistant in several laboratories, a broadcaster in the school radio station, and dancer in the art and performance institute. In her junior, she met her thesis adviser Dr. Mi Lu, who led her to the science of Chemistry. The research was about improving the performance of the lithium-ion battery by using Tin-Nickel alloy as an anode. She can still remember that they did experiments together and discussed results once the data came out. Through constant trial and error, improved performance of these materials was found and published. She enjoyed observing experimental phenomenon and analysis of the logic behind it. From then, she started working the laboratory, day and night, weekday and weekends. Hard work paid off at the end of the college, Wanlu became the first student in the Chemistry program who received a full fellowship from a Ph.D. program in the United States.

It is a life-changing experience for her coming to in the Chemistry program at Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). She got a chance to talk with Dr. Teresa Bandosz at City College, who introduced her a potential project to study reduction CO2, the main greenhouse gas leading to climate change. She immediately felt inspired and devoted herself to the study. Her research goal is to design robust catalysts to reduce greenhouse gas CO2 to renewable energy syngas. With Dr. Bandosz guidance, she built the project from scratch, which included designing the reaction cell, setting up the GC instrument for products detection, synthesizing the catalysts, and characterizing the materials. Great features were found on metal-free nanoporous carbons. She had 6 leading author publications related to this topic and had presented her work at international conferences. CUNY also provides graduate students teaching opportunities, she found joys in teaching and starting lecturing at Borough of Community College and City College. During the doctoral study, Wanlu was always supported and motivated by the faculty and graduate students. The wonderful journey would be impossible to achieve without the encouragement and help from the professors and staffs at this respected institute. 

As of recently, Wanlu intends to continue her passion in the research of converting waste to renewable energy, and STEM education for the next generation of scientifically informed citizens at Saint Peter’s University. She believes in equality, proposing a collaborative effort between the individual and building cross-cultural competencies in students who will represent the future workforce.