1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I was really lucky to have an outstanding chemistry teacher during my high school years. Her name is Yueming Chen. High school time was pretty tough for because of my family background during the period of cultural revolution, Mrs. Chen was a very good chemistry teacher and also very caring. I just fell in love with chemistry. Even though I got my bachelor degree in physics, eventually I found my way back to chemistry.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
I think I would become an mechnical engineer. I really love designing and building machines, and I feel I am pretty good at this. This ability and interest actually help me greatly in doing my own chemistry research.
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
I think chemistry is a very unique field that could make fundamental impacts on our everyday life. I believe that chemistry has also a unique position in solving our most urgent problems in the world, such as energy shortage and environmental problems because chemists have the tools and ability to understand these processes at the most fundamental levels as well as to create new materials that are often required in solving problems. However, we do need to avoid creating more long term problems in solving the most urgent problems.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
I would really love to meet Deng Xiaoping. I think he is a great man that has changed many people’s life including mine in a fundamental way. I would want to thank him personally for what he has done for China and its people.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
I really don’t like to answer this question because this question reminds that I have not done a whole experiment for a long time. I think the last time I did a whole experiment was about 9 years ago. The experiment was water photodissociation. But to be fair, my best time at work even now is with those students who are doing experiments.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one CD would you take with you?
I would like to bring a big book of papers with nothing on it so I can make drawings or write something everyday for a long time. A CD of Erhu (Chinese violin) music by the famous blind musician Ah Bing, Reflections of the Moon on the Water of Erquan. A beautiful sad and peaceful music. You will never be really tired of this music when you are alone.
Xueming Yang is in the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Reaction Dynamics at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics and works on spectroscpopy and chemical dyanmics in the gas phase as well as on surfaces.