Gou Qian in her own laboratory at Chongqing University
“If the moon moves away from us until it disappears, maybe we really have to wander the earth…” Recently, a female teacher born in the 1980s shared knowledge about interstellar chemistry on social platforms, allowing netizens to experience the mysteries of the vast universe. This teacher has a cute baby face, which contrasts with her cold-sounding identity as a “female scientist in the field of interstellar chemistry” and has attracted fans among netizens. The Ziniu News reporter of the Yangtze Evening News learned that the teacher’s name was Gou Qian, a native of Mianyang, Sichuan, and now a professor and doctoral supervisor at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering of Chongqing University. She has loved watching stars since she was a child. After graduating from Ph.D., she returned to China to study unpopular fields, leading students and netizens to look up at the stars from a new perspective.
A female doctoral supervisor who studies unpopular fields popularizes “interstellar chemistry” online
“The moon is moving away from us at a rate of 4cm/year. The initial distance was 25,000 kilometers, and the current distance is about 384,000 kilometers. If the moon moves away from us until it disappears, what impact will it have on humans living on the earth?” throws out an intriguing question After the question, Teacher Gou Qian started her lecture. In this video, she will introduce how the moon was formed. After listening to the “High Energy Output” lecture, netizens gained a better understanding of the moon’s formation theory, the role of solar wind, and the moon’s protective role in life on earth. Netizens became interested: “How big was the moon during the Tang Dynasty?” “Can we install a few planetary engines on the moon to push it back and prevent it from escaping?” “The disappearance of the moon would have a huge impact. There would be no Mid-Autumn Festival. It’s vacation”…
The reporter learned that Gou Qian is 39 years old and from Mianyang, Sichuan. After completing her studies in 2015, she returned to China and became one of the youngest doctoral supervisors at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering of Chongqing University. She was also one of the few female scientists in China studying molecular spectroscopy and astrochemistry. On weekdays, her main job is to lead students to do scientific research, while also taking care of the basic teaching work in the school. In her spare time, in order to broaden her research horizons, she tried to use short videos on Douyin to give popular science classes to netizens.
In September 2022, she released her first popular science video on Douyin. At that time, she introduced her research field-interstellar chemistry (astrochemistry) with an interesting opening line like “StarCraft has begun.” Her journey to popularize science on the Internet. Up to now, she has created nearly a hundred works in more than a year, and has received more than 100,000 likes on Douyin. “The team that shoots my videos are mostly liberal arts students. Every time I give a lecture, I will explain it to them first, and they I will only post it to the short video platform if everyone can understand it and be interested. I hope to explain the profound science concepts in an easy-to-understand way for the public. In this way, more people can be interested in this unpopular major, and I hope there will be more in the future. Many students will join research in this field.”
Gou Qian said that her current research field is a very niche research direction, involving astronomy, physics, chemistry, big data analysis, instrument science, etc. Therefore, the knowledge she explains online is diverse and unconstrained, such as “Space is really ‘Empty’?” “Why are nebulae colorful?” “What are ghost particle neutrinos?”… “These topics may not seem to have anything to do with our daily lives at first glance, but after listening carefully to the principles, Everyone will find that some microscopic phenomena in daily life are directly related to these profound scientific concepts, and they will immediately feel the interest of interstellar chemistry, and even have new thoughts about space and the universe. I think in this way, science popularization will become useful. It makes sense.”
I loved looking at the stars since I was a child, and now I look up at the stars from a chemical perspective
In Gou Qian’s videos, she often mentions concepts such as the starry sky, the moon, and planets. She explained that her love for the celestial body and the universe originated from her experience of looking up at the stars when she was a child in the countryside of Mianyang, Sichuan. “My grandparents lived in the countryside. I often lived in the countryside for a long time during the winter and summer vacations when I was a child. There was no light pollution at that time. At night, I could see the Milky Way when I looked up. When I was a child, I thought this was very common, until I went to college and the city My classmates who grew up there thought I was ‘bragging’, and I realized that it is not easy to see the Milky Way with the naked eye in many places.”
Perhaps the seeds of my love for astronomy were planted at that time. By the time I reached the Ph.D. stage, this simple love gradually grew. “When I was studying, my science scores were relatively good. I participated in a chemistry competition when I was a freshman in high school and won the second prize in the country. So after the college entrance examination, I chose the materials chemistry major of Chongqing University, which was more suitable for me at the time.” After graduating from her undergraduate degree, Gou Qian wanted to have a career. After further breakthrough, she switched to graduate school majoring in analytical chemistry (instrumental analysis). Later, she accidentally came into contact with high-resolution molecular spectroscopy, and she felt that she was more interested in this aspect. After confirming this direction, Gou Qian applied for the scholarship support from the China Scholarship Council and went to the University of Bologna in Italy to study for a doctorate. During the process of studying for a Ph.D., her childhood imagination about the starry sky further influenced her, and she gradually became convinced that she would continue to do research in related fields in the future.
“When I was studying in Italy, I found that as long as I was reading relevant academic articles or writing papers, I would enter a state of ‘flow’. People around me chatting loudly did not disturb me at all. I felt like I You can be completely immersed in it and think attentively.” So, in 2015, 30-year-old Gou Qian returned to China after completing her studies, participated in the “Hundred Talents Plan” of her alma mater, Chongqing University, and became a distinguished researcher. She decided to explore a less popular and cutting-edge research field based on molecular spectroscopy: astrochemistry. “Although this is a niche research direction, I feel that compared to popular majors, it may be easier to make breakthroughs and discoveries by doing research in unpopular fields. My personality likes freedom and does not like to be involved in a huge whirlpool of competition. So this relatively niche field is very suitable for me, as I can maintain inner peace and focus on exploring the mysteries of the universe.”
Building the first microwave spectrometer in China has produced more than 10 masters and Ph.D.
Gou Qian told reporters that her current research is to carry out astrochemical research from two aspects: laboratory rotational spectroscopy and radio astronomical observations. When she first returned to China in 2015, there were about 40 such research groups around the world, mainly in Europe, North America and Japan. Gou Qian then started from scratch, drawing on her ideas about using instruments in the laboratory during her Ph.D., and also received help from her mentors and collaborators during her Ph.D.. In the end, it took more than two years to lead the team to debug the first domestically produced instrument. A microwave spectrometer. “With this instrument, it is now much more convenient for students to conduct relevant experiments. Recently, our laboratory has also invested in the development of new instruments.”
What makes Gou Qian even more proud is that after teaching at Chongqing University for 8 years, she has brought out 4 doctoral students and 7 master’s students. “If more students can join the research in this unpopular field, I will I’m very pleased.” Gou Qian told reporters that she has always hoped to achieve a free, relaxed and harmonious teacher-student relationship with the students, so that the students can feel the warmth and fun in the scientific research process. “For example, we have been adhering to the traditional New Year’s Eve activities. The students and teachers in the laboratory draw lots together, and whoever wins the lottery will give each other a favorite book that they have read this year, but neither of them knows in advance who will receive the book. , this event gives everyone a sense of mystery, and at the same time urges everyone to learn and communicate with each other.”
Gou Qian said that she personally attaches great importance to communication and hopes to hear more ideas. “This kind of idea can be given to me by my classmates or netizens. Now I teach you on Douyin, and I also hope to open a new communication window. I find that there are always some netizens who will express their opinions in the comments There are wonderful ideas, some of which can even inspire my offline classes. I think this is complementary to what I teach in school.”
What kind of videos will you continue to produce in the future? Gou Qian said that she is more Buddhist and will update according to sudden inspirations. She will not deliberately chase traffic and fans. She is more concerned about whether she can truly bring everyone’s thinking and interest in the universe. “Look up at the stars.” It is very interesting that the process of experiencing the vastness of the universe can stimulate infinite imagination and curiosity. Since ancient times, it has become an instinct for human beings to look up at the stars. If a nation does not have the ability to look up at the stars, then this nation has no hope. . Therefore, I think it is a very important direction to use various technologies to explore our universe and use new perspectives and ideas to explore interstellar objects.”
Photo of Ziniu News reporter Zhang Bingjing: provided by the interviewee