Researcher Spotlight: Liang Dong
ISRC affiliate Liang Dong is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University. In October 2021, he became the first recipient of the Vikram L. Dalal Professorship in electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State. His core research areas include sensors, micro-electromechanical systems and biochips. In 2022, he was named director of the Iowa State Microelectronics Research Center (MRC), a multi-disciplinary center that studies semiconductor materials, devices and applications toward the development of microelectronic technologies for use in energy, agriculture and biomedicine. Dong is also a faculty scholar with the ISU Plant Sciences Institute and serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Sensors and Actuators A: Physical. He also teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in electronics, sensors and bioengineering.
Currently, he and Steve Whitham, plant pathology, entomology and microbiology, are working on a two-year project funded by the ISRC in 2021 for the early detection of soybean diseases by using an array of low-cost multimodal sensors. “We hope the new sensors can inform farmers of the presence of the virus early before symptoms occur in plants. In addition, my group is developing a suite of sensors for nutrients, water, greenhouse gas emissions, insects and plant diseases with support from various sources,” said Dong.
Dong summed up the importance of working with the ISRC saying, “ISRC-funded projects provide researchers in different areas of expertise to collaborate more to solve complex problems in soybean research and farming, with engagement from various stakeholders such as farmer representatives. These exciting projects also help with training and workforce development needed to grow our farming sector.”
Dong said he became interested in working with microelectronics and sensors as they became widely used in consumer electronics, biomedicine and healthcare and he noticed that low-cost microelectronic sensing technologies were under-researched for agriculture and plant science. “I saw the need for more capacity and bandwidth in tools that can provide new datasets to help us better understand how crops respond to biotic and abiotic stresses for breeding purposes. Also, real-time data from fields can help decision-making for optimal management practices toward increasing resource use efficiencies and reducing negative environmental impacts.” Dong said he is excited about his ag sensor research and hopes it can benefit agronomists, plant scientists and conservation groups with reliable and useable data as guidance for breeding and decision-making for agricultural management.
After earning his PHD in Electronic Science and Technology from Tsinghua University in China, he joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a postdoctoral researcher then joined the faculty at Iowa State in 2007. Dong said he came to Iowa State due to the numerous opportunities to work with world-class agronomists, plant biologists, soil scientists, data scientists and engineers to develop new research programs in precision and resilient agriculture. He said, “I enjoy working with my collaborators, students and postdocs to develop and deploy agricultural sensors to solve critical problems for food security and sustainability. As a group, we are building something that matters to people. It is full of fun and pride.”