From Athens to Paris, Huiru Wang studies corrosion around the world

Published: December 21, 2022 Author: Chloe Musick

When the United States border closed during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Ph.D. candidate Huiru Wang was a visiting scholar at Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Even though she planned to return to Ohio University sooner to complete her studies, the pandemic extended her stay in Paris, allowing her more time to learn from top experts and experience art, culture and history in France.  

In 2017, Wang started her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Ohio University, conducting her research in the Institute for Corrosion and Multiphase Technology. After she completed her early coursework requirements, she had the opportunity to collaborate and learn from Professor Alain Pailleret at Sorbonne University in Paris. This relationship between corrosion researchers at Sorbonne University and Ohio University was one that was fostered by Wang’s advisor, Distinguished Professor Srdjan Nesic.   

“This center is very famous in the corrosion field. Under the supervision of my advisor, Dr. Nesic, we did lot of good work, and I got a chance to learn new techniques in atomic force microscopy,” said Wang.  

Wang collaborated with Pailleret, who is an expert in atomic force microscopy (AFM). This technology creates high resolution, 3D topographical images in situ in an aqueous solution, which can be used to study corrosion inhibitors. 

“I was motivated to learn these techniques from a real expert. ICMT has very good equipment, but we lack an expert in AFM there. When I finished at Sorbonne University, I was able to bring my knowledge back to ICMT and share what I learned,” said Wang. 

While this experience provided Wang with critical knowledge that served as the foundation of her Ph.D. research, when she was unable to return to Ohio University on schedule due to the pandemic, she was worried about how she would continue to make progress on her degree.  

“Dr. Nesic is a very good advisor. He told me not to worry and the ICMT family will help me get through this pandemic period. My mood went from feeling anxious to calm and finally, I was able to find a way to balance the research work between two labs, continue pursuing my degree and enjoy the journey,” said Wang. 

Throughout her journey abroad, Wang learned about more than corrosion. She quickly discovered that the culture of working and studying in Paris was very different from the culture in the United States. She noted that there was a greater emphasis on taking research at a slower pace, which allowed her to not only learn from her peers more thoroughly, but also enjoy moments of camaraderie with her peers. 

“Every day we would knock on everyone’s office doors at lunchtime, and we would eat lunch overlooking the Seine River and talk about our research progress, which was really nice,” said Wang. 

While she does not pride herself on being an artist, Wang also loved being in Paris to explore the local art, museums and rich history in the city. She was also quick to note that there was no shortage of delicious desserts.  

When the U.S. border reopened, Wang was able to return to OHIO to finish her Ph.D. The knowledge she gained as a visiting scholar shaped her dissertation, which focused on using AFM to characterize corrosion inhibitors. Her commitment to her research and scholarship has been recognized through various awards including the AMPP East Asia and Pacific-area Young Scholar Award, the AMPP Graduate Student Book Award, first place in the Mars Fontana category at the CORROSION 2021 conference, and first place in her category in OHIO’s Student Expo. 

Today, Wang has successfully defended her Ph.D, and continues to work as a researcher in the ICMT. When she completes her research, she plans to work as a corrosion or material engineer in industry.