Life on the RBR science team with Qi Wang

Qi Wang RBR science team

The RBR science team is a critical part of our research and development group. Their work is dedicated to advancing our instrument and sensor technology, characterising sensor performance under harsh conditions, and developing innovative data analysis tools. In short, they are a big part of the ‘R’ in ‘R&D’.

The newest member of the team is Qi Wang. We sat down with Qi to find out about her work on the team and the path she took to get there.

RBR: What do you do at RBR, Qi?

Qi: My current position is Research Scientist, but I did different roles in RBR when I first started. I started in 2018 as a Calibration Technician, on a short-term contract to help fill in the summer gaps of the calibration lab work. After that, I was a Sales and Marketing Associate, dedicated to the Chinese market as well as countries where we don’t have local sales support. I joined the science team this year.

RBR: What led you to RBR?

Qi: I was trained as a physical oceanographer with working experience at the Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Science in China and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Canada. I actually focused more on numerical modeling. We simulated the ocean response to hurricane events, aiming to improve hurricane forecasting. However, the observational measurements for such studies are very limited. It’s difficult for the floats to survive under such extreme weather conditions, and even harder to make shipboard observations conducted by human beings. Without the observational data, it’s hard to set up the model simulations and validate the model results. Besides, hurricanes are relatively small-scale phenomena, small scale in both time and space. So we not only need the data, but high-resolution data is required. I have to say finding high-quality, high-resolution observational data under hurricanes was one of the hardest parts of my entire master’s degree program.

Luckily, I found a dataset from the Ocean Tracking Network. They offered high-resolution data measured by gliders. In 2014, one of their gliders happened to encounter Hurricane Arthur on the Scotian Shelf and recorded the whole story of the hurricane. Applying this to my research, we proved the importance of surface wave effects on the ocean response to hurricanes. In this process, I realized how important ocean observing is. It’s not only essential to daily ocean monitoring, but also the model simulation, evaluation, and forecast improvement. That’s the reason I came to RBR. I endeavoured to see what a world-class CTD manufacturer looks like, how sensors work, and how the observational data has been improved.

RBR: Are you still interested in hurricanes?

Qi: Yes for sure, and what is exciting is the first application story I came across at RBR was about hurricanes. In 2018, Hurricane Florence was heading towards the east coast of the Carolinas and 10 RBRargo CTDs were air-deployed by a NOAA Hurricane Hunter airplane into the path of the hurricane. They captured the dramatic change in the upper ocean driven by Hurricane Florence. When I saw this data, I was super-excited and couldn’t wait to share it with previous colleagues. It’s amazing to see RBRargo CTDs recording the detailed ocean changes before, during, and after the hurricane passed and sending the data in near real-time. The measurements are hard to obtain in these extreme environmental conditions, so when I saw our RBR CTDs were air-deployed – you know, just thrown from an airplane – that’s really cool. I learned our inductive conductivity cell is very robust and can survive under these hurricane conditions, that’s amazing! We want to improve the modeling prediction, and the forecasting of this extreme weather, and these great observational data are super-helpful.

RBR: Can you talk a little more about the science team at RBR and what they do?

Qi: I’m still comparatively new to the science team, but basically the science team is helping our company to evaluate and improve the performance of our sensors. For example, Mathieu Dever on our team recently published a paper about the static and dynamic performance of the RBRargo3 CTD. We develop and maintain the custom Python and MATLAB toolboxes for our customers so they can easily post-process and visualize data from RBR instruments. We also work with our technical support team to provide support services related to software applications and instrument deployments.

RBR: Since you’ve started, what projects have you worked on?

Qi: I’m currently working on two main projects. One is the RBRquartz3 BPR|zero bottom pressure recorder. It’s a comparatively new product, so we are helping customers to look at their data, and conducting some lab and field tests, so that we can provide better deployment suggestions; like the configuration of the RBRquartz3 BPR|zero calibration sequence. I’m also working on pyRSKTools development with the team. Currently, we have the RSKTools toolbox for MATLAB users. Python is getting more and more popular, so we are developing the pyRSKtools for our customers who are keen to use Python. That’s what I’m doing now and we’re hoping to have the pyRSKtools toolbox released in the very near future.

RBR: What has surprised you the most since joining RBR?

Qi: I think first is the team. I’ve been working in both the sales and marketing, and the R&D teams. The teams are so supportive and make the daily work even more fun. I’m also impressed by our company goal. When I was in the sales team, we were trained that RBR is at the service of our customers, and their success is our overriding goal. Instead of just closing the deal, we are trying to help out the scientists to find the best solution for their deployment plan and fulfill their research goals. We have a dynamic R&D team and it’s great to see the continuous improvements on the products based on our customers’ feedback.

RBR: What about your work here makes you most proud?

Qi: I wouldn’t say one thing makes me most proud. I think it’s a collection of a lot of moments. It’s the moment when I got great feedback from a customer who studied estuary regions, who told me he got great data in a super-high turbidity environment. It’s the moment when I helped a customer resolve a technical problem using the RSKtools toolbox. It’s the moments when I notice I’m moving forward step by step, like when I first started generating the newsletter for the Chinese market and not many customers were reading it. Two years later, we had ten times the open rate and we had customers replying to the newsletter. One customer asked for more information about the DMO WireWalker, which ended up with a successful deployment.

RBR: What RBR traditions are most meaningful to you?

Qi: I love our social events. We have a great social committee that always organizes great social events. We had yoga on the lawn and Holiday parties, and we just had a wonderful summer social at a farm last month. Our company is growing very fast and you can see more and more new faces coming in. It’s hard to get to know everyone if we don’t have overlap in our daily work, but these social events make us get together. We get the opportunity to know people from different teams.

RBR: What do you think makes a person successful at RBR and what advice would you give to someone just starting at RBR?

Qi: Teamwork! Do not hesitate to ask questions and ask for help. This team is so supportive and would love to help out.


If you think you might find your purpose at RBR, check out our career page. We’re always hiring.