About Me

I am a Postdoctoral scholar at Dr. Janna Nawroth's Mechanobiology Lab in Helmholtz Pioneer Campus/Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany. I did my PhD in Prof.Kanso's Bio-inspired Motion Lab at USC studying cilia and mechanics of other soft slender bodies. I studied pure mathematics and astronautical engineering at UT Austin. I also worked as an undergraduate research assistant at Center for Space Research for two years.

I spend most of my time thinking about biology inspired physics problems, as I try to understand the mechanical aspects of emergent coordination across different life form. In particular, I use mathematical and computational tools to study problems that are multi-scale in nature, complex due to activity present in the system (active matter/out-of-equilibrium systems), and exhibit diverse behaviors that arise from conserved structures (multi-stability and bifurcation). The goal of my research is to seek the origins and mechanisms of diversity and coordination in complex systems, and establish the structure-to-function maps for such features.

My PhD research has been focused on understanding the multi-scale coordination of cilia, the micron sized, hair-like structures that push fluid around to help cells move, and transport material for feeding, cleaning, filtration, and sensing. Notably, cilia are powered by nanoscale active elements (microtubule doublets and motor proteins) and can work individually as propellers for microorganisms, move in single or a few pairs analogous to appendages of mammals, or coordinate in very large numbers like on the epithelial tissue of mammalian brain ventricle, airway, and reproductive tracts.

I am also excited to combine reinforcement learning (RL) with analytically tractable mathematical models to study decentralized control and collective motion problems, such as how ants organize to transport objects in groups, or schools of fish. In particular, how does specialization, hierarchy emerge? How does learning and group size/structure affect it?

I have also retained interests in geometry and topology and I get easily excited by all work that happen to effectively use advanced mathematical concepts in 'real life' (e.g., discrete exterior calculus in graphics and simulation, persistent homology in data analysis). Space and sustainability techs are also always high up on my radar.

Click here for my research statement in more detail. (10/25/2021)

And here is my most up-to-date CV. (03/18/2023)

Click here to check out what I am up to right now. (02/03/2018)

Click here to my corner of curiosities (under construction...)

Click for more details if you are not tired of me yet :) (last edited 01/17/2017)

Background photo

The cutie on the right is my adopted sister 多多, who is still living at my hometown, the breathtakingly magnificent 黄山.


Among my favourite books are the Princeton Companion to Mathematics, Counterexamples in Topology, the Variational Principles of Mechanics, many more Dover (re)publications and other classics, such as things listed here and at the end of May's A Concise Course in Algebraic Topology. Just go buy (me) something from my (old) Amazon wishlist :P

And behold another set of gems of mathematical exposition.

Maths aside, I find the Road to Serfdom, Crosby's Ecological Imperialism, and the Massacre at El Mozote to be good reads. I also love lots of Chinese classics from 说文解字, an ancient treatise documenting Chinese Etymology and things like 论语, to 金庸的武侠小说, famous 20th century martial art inspired fantasies... And I am in the process of digesting some works of 林语堂.

And now an essay about programming.


I play the piano (but a bit out of practice) and recently picked up some guitar action.

Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Bach are probably my most cherished composers. I love passion in the classical scales but also value precision, dignity, and complexity. My favourite pieces from them are Rhapsodie Espagnole, Liebestraum No.3, Consolation No.3, Hungarian Rhapsodies, and Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos, Prelude op.23 No.5, and the rhapsody. (It's pretty hard to pick favorites from Bach so I'm just gonna say Violin Partita No.2 plus all the fugues and inventions.) Beethoven's Symphony No.7 2nd mov., Etudes 'Revolutionary' of Chopin, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto op.26 No.3 1st mov., Bartok's Piano Concerto No.2 3rd mov. are also on my permanent playlist. My old flatmate(s) also forever made an impression of House/Techno/EDM vibe into my musical tastes.

Other Stuff

I enjoy lifting weights and here is a pretty great resource.

You can also read all about my thoughts on some shows and pictures for the past few years or so here. There also exists some amateur photography by me over here as well.

Here's a fun way to get some intuition on 1D quantum dynamics.

If you have never heard of Oskar van Deventer, you should certainly check out his YouTube channel of puzzles.

And speaking of YouTubers, go watch something from Brady's NumberPhile and Objectivity channels and other math stuff from 3blue1brown. The Pulitzer Center also put up some videos that deserve more views than it has.

Tinkering, manufacturing (the engineering guy has an awesome video on injection molding), and rapid prototyping (additive mfg., laser techs, and good ol' CNC) have always fascinated me. I also love open source anything, from SageMath to openSCAD to farming (open source ecology).

I've been occasionally using and contributing to) Forvo for awhile now.

This Google calendar hours calculator comes in handy at times. So has this scheduling tool if you are a fellow Google calendar junkie like me.

I have also been learning French and German (mostly) through Duolingo for some time now. ielanguages also have some pretty cool lessons (esp. on French pronunciation for me).

Ig-noble prizes! This is still my fav. What about hunger?.

Tune find, IMSDb, CoInflation, and PHD stipends are some cool online databases.

Have you ever heard of the common stinkhorn?

Finally a few quotes I like.