UNI water tower

July 19, 2021

Meet the Professor: Dr. Bingqing Liang

What is your academic and professional background?

I obtained my B.S. in Geography Education from South China Normal University in 2002, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Geography from Indiana State University in 2005 and 2008, respectively. In 2013, I joined the UNI Geography Department as an Assistant Professor specializing in geospatial technologies including remote sensing, GIS, GPS, and geovisualization. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2019. Prior to joining the UNI faculty, I was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.

What research or project are you currently working on?

One of the major research grants I am working on is the “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site – Interdisciplinary Research Experience in Hyperspectral Imaging (IDREHSI)” funded by the National Science Foundation. This is an 8-week summer training program for undergraduate students recruited nationwide. Students participate in a highly interdisciplinary research environment with a unifying theme of fundamental and applied research in the cutting-edge technology of hyperspectral imaging (HI). With the state-of-the art HI equipment and large volume of HI images available in the department, students engage in projects related to Geographic Information Science, Arctic and Cryosphere, Biology/ Environmental Science, Geology, Atmospheric Science, Computer Science, and Physics with faculty mentors from various STEM fields.

How did you become involved in this research?

The main objectives of the REU grant match well with my research interests. Because of this, I was first invited to participate in the grant when the proposal was written by my colleagues - Drs. Sugumaran (Principal Investigator) and Petrov (Co-PI) - in 2011. After we received the grant, I worked as a Senior Personnel for the first two years and then was promoted to the PI for the third year following Dr. Sugumaran’s departure. In 2019, I successfully renewed the grant as the PI again.

What communities does this project impact and how so?

The grant has been run at UNI for seven years and trained 61 undergraduate students (4 were from UNI) recruited from across the nation, particularly from predominantly underrepresented groups, two-year colleges, and institutions with limited research environments at a competitive level. The grant has supported 16 UNI Geography MA students and involved 12 faculty mentors representing two UNI colleges (CSBS and CHAS).  

As a result, the project contributes to enhancing undergraduate research, education, and training at UNI. It supports several core objectives of UNI’s strategic plan, thus enhancing the university’s role as a state leader in undergraduate education and a key regional research center. Additionally, with student participants and faculty mentors coming from different STEM fields, the project fosters the creation of a highly interdisciplinary research environment on campus and the engagement of students to work in teams across traditional disciplinary boundaries in problem-based research. Finally, through collaboration with local private enterprise (e.g., Aerial Services Inc.) as well as state and federal agencies (e.g., Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Earth Resources Observation and Science Center), the impact of the project has the potential to go beyond the UNI campus.

What colleagues, students, or others have inspired your work?

Each REU undergraduate student is required to team up with one or more UNI faculty mentor(s) (supported by one UNI graduate student) to develop his/her own REU research project that can make use of the training knowledge/skills and is doable within the summer program timeframe. As the undergraduate participants and faculty mentors are from different STEM fields, they often come up with unique research topics that match both parties’ interests and thus all together provide inspiration for the program and my work in the end.

What else would you like people to know about your research area? 

Anyone interested in this research project is welcome to check the REU program website here.