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Chinese female scientist debuts in NASA news conference

By Liu Jing ( Updated: 2015-11-13 14:23

Chinese female scientist debuts in NASA news conference

Dong Yaxue, left, speaks during a news conference by NASA on Nov 5, 2015. [Photo/Weibo]

Dong Yaxue, a Chinese researcher working for NASA said she finds great pleasure in both exploring Mars and eating hot pot.

Born in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan province, 30-year-old Dong is currently a member of NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) team.

On Nov 5, Dong was invited to speak at a NASA news conference, in which the organization said the atmosphere on Mars can be stripped by solar winds. She is the first Chinese female scientist to participate in a NASA news conference.

Dong graduated from Chengdu's Shishi High School in 2003 and was later admitted by University of Science and Technology of China. She got her master's and doctor's degree in astrophysics from Rice University in the United States.

Last year, Dong joined the Laboratory for Atmospherics and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado and began working for MAVEN after handing in her resume and taking part in a phone interview. Now her main job is to analyze satellite data and compare the results to theoretical predictions.

"The findings released during the news conference are very important and may change the content of school textbooks," Dong told the Chengdu Business Daily.

"It has also provided new information and guidance for future Mars exploration."

Interested in technical work, Dong said she was never bored at work and will continue focusing on data analysis next year.

While working in the US, Dong said that she feels as if she had never left Chengdu. She usually comes back every one or two years.

"No matter what job I do, I'm always an ordinary girl," said Dong, adding that she is a fan of Harry Potter and loves hot pot, Maocai, and Danhonggao, all famous foods from Chengdu.

"Indeed, I'm only one of the many postdoctoral researchers in this field. This is the first time that my job got so much attention."

He Jianming, Dong's high school teacher, said that physics is difficult for many girls but not for Dong Yaxue. As a middle school student, she won first prize in the national physics contest.

He said Dong was not the top student in her school. "She never got first in the class, usually ranking tenth to twentieth. But her scores of all subjects were even."

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