Shuang Cui has worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Building Energy Science Group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory since 2018. Her research focuses on both the fundamental study of nanoscale heat transfer and energy conversion and advanced materials development spanning from intelligent soft materials and devices for moisture control and phase change materials for thermal energy storage in buildings. She was a selected participant of the International School for Materials for Energy and Sustainability VIII at Caltech as well as the Asian Deans’ Forum 2019—The Rising Stars Women in Engineering Workshop. Shuang received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, San Diego.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
Sheer curiosity inspired me to get into STEM. I have always been a curious kid. I used to ask many questions and want to understand how things work. I distinctly remember being fascinated throughout my thermodynamic classes—with every new class, some previously omitted, fascinating detail would emerge as teachers further explained the three laws of thermodynamics. That instilled in me a deep sense that there was more to know, more to find out, and I wanted to go out and discover whatever that was. STEM provides interesting answers to interesting questions, and those answers are always open to discussion and further inquiry. Understanding how things work and how to put that knowledge to use for the greater good of humanity is my passion now. I am still that curious little kid hungry for answers.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
I am excited to work on renewable energy. The Department of Energy offers great collaborations with a variety of leading researchers and scientists spanning national laboratories, universities, and industries. Creative, innovative, and cutting-edge research are encouraged and practiced through diverse projects here. Not only do we do great science every day, but we also apply the discoveries to practical applications to make a real difference in people’s lives. Every day is new and exciting, which makes me feel like I am contributing to the broader community.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Academia and industry should contribute more to better engage women, girls, and other underrepresented groups. We should all motivate young girls to pursue an interest in STEM and encourage teaching these subjects in ways that are compelling from an early age. A female role model in early childhood can be essential to encourage girls to study STEM. We also need to change work cultures to inspire more women to lead. More programs and initiatives are needed to encourage girls to study science and engineering and to promote women to enter and remain in STEM fields in which they are still underrepresented. We also need to prioritize more funding for STEM in general and thus create a larger total number of positions in those fields. A diverse workforce keeps our perspectives fresh and our ideas innovative, so it’s crucial to encourage more female voices in all STEM positions, from entry-level app designers to technology executives.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Find the research topic or area that you are most interested in and passionate about. Connect to the professionals and experts in that field and build your professional network. Engage in a team that you'd like to work and collaborate with. Stay hungry and stay foolish during day-to-day work. Enjoy and embrace the challenges.
When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I like painting. It is a way to translate my imagination into reality, and it also helps me relax and be creative. I also gained a new hobby of skiing since I moved to Colorado. Skiing is wonderful, and there’s nothing that compares to the exhilaration of gliding over fresh snow.
Learn more about our programs & resources for women and girls in STEM at /women