16 April 2020

My UEA Story: Xian Li

Xian LiName: Xian Li

School: Global Development

Research area: Water Resources in China

Bio: My name is Xian Li. I am doing quantitative research about water resources in China at both UEA and SUSTech. I take part in the compilation of water inventory dataset in a long run. In the meantime, I conduct water accounting by using Input-Out Analysis Method, and I also collaborate with other PhD students to analyse water-energy nexus at regional and city level.



Xian: life as a UEA postgraduate research student



My name is Xian and I'm researching about Water Resources in China.

Why did you choose UEA?

UEA is a prestigious university in the UK. It has a leading position in terms of research and it has the best student service. It has a very supportive visa application team, a 24/7 library and all sorts of societies and activities.

Tell us about the UEA SUSTech programme

Generally students in this split-site programme do research both in China and the UK. It's a great opportunity for me because I get to see things from both domestic and international perspectives.

What's it like to research at UEA and SUSTech?

UEA has great facilities. I have met many brilliant researchers here. I haven't been to SUSTech yet, but I hear it's famous for its innovation. And it has great potential, so I'm really looking forward to my study there next year.

What would you say to someone considering the programme?

I would say go for it because the funding is great and you'll be able to broaden your horizons. Especially for those who haven't studied overseas before.

What motivates you?

I'm always into intellectual challenges with the hope to equip myself with more knowledge, because at the end of the day, I will be the one who benefits from all the efforts I put in for four years.

What do you love about being a research student?

The advantage of being a research student is that you are the master of your own. You can develop multiple skills because you have plenty of time. You can also cultivate more critical and logical thinking along the way. These qualities will accompany you for a lifetime.

Find out more about Postgraduate Research degrees



A day in the life


I walk to my office, which is located in Arts 1, and start my work. I usually go through what I have done previous days in order to refresh my memories. After that I can carry on my research more efficiently. Also, as a first-year student, I sometimes have research skill workshops to attend, or it could be other sessions/seminars I am interested in.


I normally prepare my lunch pack beforehand and bring it to my office. During the lunchtime, I heat it with the microwave in Arts 1, and enjoy it in the dining area. Most of the time, I will run into other students so that we will have lunch together and chat.


My supervisor goes in once a week, and if he does I will meet him. Meetings mainly include my study plan and problems I have encountered recently. I meet other supervisors less frequently, but I love all the meetings because afterwards I feel inspired and they always give me great support.


I do quantitative research so besides data collection and academic reading & writing, learning how to use software is essential. In the afternoon I often try to do some programming and to draw graphs with specific software. Learning something new can be very challenging, so I need to have full concentration at that time.    


This is a social time for me. The representatives in Global Development (DEV) sometimes organise social events so we grab a drink, sit down and share our experiences of doing research or of dealing with relationships in the workplace. In addition, I also joined some societies so occasionally I go to those annual meetings instead either to socialise or to learn new things.


A lot of things are going on at this time. I always pay close attention to the Student Union page and see if there are any activities I would like to go. I love gigs so I often visit the Waterfront and see some independent musicians. The LCR holds many activities as well, such as stand-up comedy.

On weekends

I explore Norwich or its surrounding areas on weekends. It could be a secluded open area or a national park. I also travel to the seaside, seeing seals or feeling the breeze.

What's the SUSTech split-site programme like? 

I feel privileged that I was chosen as a student in the UEA-SUSTech split-site programme and I strongly recommend it. There are several advantages of being in this programme. To name a few:


To start with, you are able to network with researchers either in your field or from other subjects. It is not only a way to broaden your horizons, but also allows interdisciplinary cooperation in the future. I always feel that researchers can easily cross their paths. Personally, I am researching about environment, mainly water resources. Talking to researchers who do chemistry can inspire me to think more in-depth. And I use quantitative research methods. Hence, I can learn a lot from researchers who specialise in mathematics and computer sciences.

Professional knowledge

It is known that UK and Chinese educational systems have similarities and differences. In terms of PhD education, I think UK has strengths in teaching students how to illustrate theories in a more organised and systematic way, while China is great at practice and the application of theories. The two aspects are equally important, and it is great that you can gain comprehensive knowledge from different educational systems, which can be fulfilled if you are in this split-site programme.     

Transferrable skills

In addition to the above abilities, you can cultivate transferrable skills as well. These skills will not only support your academic study, but also benefit your future career. For example, you need to communicate with and to present your work to your supervisors at different sites. With practice, you will be able to articulate your ideas clearly and accurately. Also, being a PhD student can be stressful. You will have the opportunity to work with two main supervisors. The multitasking skills you develop can be quite useful, and the capability to fight against your negative thoughts and to be persistent in your research will help you tackle other issues successfully. Meanwhile, for those who have never lived overseas before, studying abroad enables you to be more independent because you will need to overcome language barriers as well as to take care of your physical and mental health yourselves.

UEA and SUSTech are both great places for students to grow, and I believe that they will help you to grow faster too.        


School of Global Development

Postgraduate study