Emily Liu

Professor and Department Head
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Professor Emily Liu, a condensed matter physicist and nuclear engineer, has been named head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest and one of the most renowned technological research universities in the nation. Dr. Liu brings extensive experience leading and managing multidisciplinary research, including collaborations with engineers, scientists, economists, and psychologists. Industrial and systems engineering is an interdisciplinary science exploring the data analysis and design of systems that involve nature, machines, and the human element. The ISE department at Rensselaer is home to internationally renowned undergraduate and graduate programs, including Industrial and Management Engineering (B.S., M.S., and MEng), Data Science and Engineering (B.S. minor), Industrial and Management Engineering (M.S. and MEng), and Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems (Ph.D.). The department is well known for addressing engineering problems that involve networked, interdependent, socio-technical systems, in which humans play a critical part in decision making. “I look forward to Dr. Liu’s vision and strong leadership to further advance the department in new and exciting directions,” said Shekhar Garde, dean of Rensselaer’s School of Engineering. “ISE resides at the intersection of complex interconnected systems, data, and human factors. Naturally, it will play a key role in the next technological revolution, and Dr. Liu’s expertise in leading interdisciplinary teams across boundaries will carry the ISE department forward in the areas of data, AI, and computing, with applications to energy, the built and natural environment, and smart systems, as well as to human health and well-being.” “While I am particularly interested in data science and engineering, socio-technical systems, and sustainability, I believe that a modern ISE department can respond to global challenges in human health and well-being, energy, environment, smart systems, climate change, and security. ISE research is particularly important to supply chains, which have become increasingly important considering COVID-19 and the geopolitics of our time,” she said. Dr. Liu’s research interests include energy-related economic issues and energy policy, and she has taught Nuclear Phenomena for Engineering Applications, Modeling Analysis and Uncertainty, and Introduction to Engineering Analysis, among other courses, for 15 years at Rensselaer. Collaborating with financial engineers from Rensselaer and Idaho National Laboratory, Dr. Liu has done economic analyses to measure sustainability of advanced hybrid energy systems; she is currently developing new economic models for nuclear fuel cycles. In 2018, Dr. Liu received an ELATES at Drexel Fellowship, and in 2017, she was awarded an Arab-American Frontiers Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She is also the recipient of a Faculty Development Grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and numerous teaching and research awards from the School of Engineering at Rensselaer, as well as the Cozzarelli Prize in Engineering and Applied Sciences from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Liu received her B.Sc. in Technical Physics from Peking University in Beijing in 1999, and her Ph.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2005. She was a postdoctoral research associate at MIT with Professor Sow-Hsin Chen. She received the Manson Benedict Fellowship at MIT “for excellence in academic performance and professional promise in nuclear science and engineering.” She joined Rensselaer as a tenure-track assistant professor in 2006, was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2013, and promoted to professor in 2019. She has published 62 peer-reviewed journal papers in diverse, respected journals. In addition, she has published 17 peer-reviewed conference proceedings and 34 non-referred conference abstracts. She has presented her research work around the world with 60 invited lectures. Her research has garnered 25 grants to date, enabling approximately $10 million in funding. Dr. Liu received a 2012 School of Engineering Research Excellence Award for a Junior Faculty Member, the School of Engineering Education Innovation Awards (2013 and 2020), as well as the Class of 1951 Outstanding Teaching Award (2013). Dr. Liu’s leadership is reflected in her service as the president of Rensselaer Faculty Senate, adviser of the ELATES at Drexel Fellowship program, chair of the Diversity, Women's Affairs, and Outreach Committee of the MANE Department, and through many other contributions. Dr. Liu is Department Head of Industrial and Systems Engineering and a Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Dr. Liu earned PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and B.S. from Peking University. She received 2018-2019 ELATE at Drexel Fellowship (serves as advisor for ELATES fellows since 2021), and in 2017 was awarded an Arab-American Frontiers Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She is also the recipient of many teaching and research awards from School of Engineering at Rensselaer, as well as the Cozzarelli Prize in Engineering and Applied Sciences from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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Education & Training

Fellow, Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) Program (Class 2018-2019), Drexel University

Ph.D, Nuclear Science and Engineering (2005), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

B.S., Technical Physics (1999), Peking University

Other affililations: Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering


Dr. Liu has over 22 years of experience in neutron and X-ray scattering studies of confined water, nuclear materials, nuclear data, and the radiation effects of materials and devices. Her expertise also includes the methodology to integrate scattering experiments with molecular dynamics, density functional theory, and phase field simulations to explain fundamental condensed matter physics. She also has extensive experience of multidisciplinary education and research management, including leading educational research with economists and psychologists.

Moreover, Liu’s science based communication/societal research extends into many areas. She works on the emergency management and decision technologies to support preparedness, response, and recovery. Collaborating with financial engineers, she builds economic analysis to measure sustainability of advanced hybrid energy systems and develops new optimization economic/technical model for nuclear fuel cycle. Collaborating with course developers, she discovers innovations for engineering education.

Primary Research Focus
Energy Materials and Systems, Condensed Matter Physics, Emergency Communication, Preparedness, and Response, Engineering Education.
Other Focus Areas

Condensed Matter Physics, Emergency Communication, Preparedness, and Response, Engineering Education, Experimental and Computational Neutron Physics, Neutron Scattering

Research Groups

The Liu-E Research Group consists of nuclear engineers, industrial engineers, physicists, chemists, and mechanical engineers. We are based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, USA. The research topics that we are interested and explored include but not limited to: use of Neutron, X-ray, and Dynamic Light Scattering in nanotechnology and polymer science, such as soft colloidal systems; Molecular Dynamics to Phase-Field simulations of nuclear fuel and cladding materials; radiation damage; experimental validations of nanoscale to mesoscale simulations; energy policy and energy related economic issues; the measurements and calculations of inelastic neutron cross sections for nuclear data; in-situ scattering measurements of molten salts under extreme conditions; energy materials and systems; emergency communication, preparedness, and response; and engineering education.

Current PhD students

  • Ryan Bedell (bedelr@rpi.edu)
  • Emily de Stefanis (destee@rpi.edu)
  • Andrew Kraus (krausa3@rpi.edu)
  • Roberto Llovera (roberto_llovera@yahoo.com.ar), co-advised with Drs. Florencia Cantargi and Claudio Pastorino, Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica CNEA

Current M.Eng. students

  • Olivier Retourne (retouo@rpi.edu)

Current B.S. students

  • Katherine Sweeney, Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy Department (sweenk2@rpi.edu)

Alumni (Postdoc) from the Group

  • Dr. Kemal Ramic (2020)

Alumni from the Group

  • Dr. James Olson (2022)
  • Dr. Jinghua Feng (2021)
  • Dr. Jie Hou (2019)
  • Dr. Fallon Laliberte (2019)
  • Dr. Carl Robert Wendorff (2018)
  • Dr. Kemal Ramic (2018)
  • Dr. Ademola Victor Akinlalu (2015)
  • Dr. Lauren Boldon (2015)
  • Dr. Xiangyu Wang (2013)
  • Dr. Bin Wu (2013)
  • Dr. Xin Li (2011)
  • MS: Robert Moore, Daniel Mucaro


As an instructor, my responsibility is to raise the interest of students, help them acquire a solid foundation in the subject matter, and encourage them to build confidence in their knowledge of the course topics. Two fundamental and intuitive pedagogical methods are implemented in my classroom.

  • The classroom can be fun. A unique classroom experience can be achieved through a combination of traditional teaching tools (blackboards and power-point) and complementary tools such as history/stories, games, view clips, pictures, flow charts, online sources (e.g., social media, youtube, and Wikipedia), and cartoons. Especially when the concepts are hard to understand, augmenting techniques are very beneficial for students to grasp the ideas.
  • The most effective environment in which to learn these fundamental materials is an interactive classroom. Interactive learning, such as group work, computer simulation, problem solving, question and answer sessions, group games, and group projects, provides multiple avenues by which students can gain proficiency in a course area. The more opportunities students have to gain and apply knowledge, the more likely it is that they will be able to use this knowledge in more advanced courses or in the real world.
Office Hours

During semesters, Thursdays 1:30-3:30PM or by appointment.

Current Courses

Dr. Liu help to give lectures for Introduction to Introduction to Industrial and Systems Engineering (every Spring), Introduction to Nuclear Engineering (INEEP, every Spring), and Better World Engineering (every Fall)

ISYE-6900 Seminar in ISYE Research (Fall - every year)

To learn, practice, and critique effective scientific seminar and technical writing skills. Students develop presentation and writing skills that will be essential during their entire professional careers. These skills will improve as students respond to critical feedback, and seek to make scientific information understandable to scientists, peers, and the general public.

MANE 2830 Nuclear Phenomena for Engineering Applications (NPEA, Fall - every year)

A survey of atomic and nuclear phenomena and their application in various engineering disciplines. Systematics of atoms and nuclei; nuclear reactions and their characterization; radioactive decay; fission and fusion energy release; radiation effects on materials and biological systems; radiation production, detection and protection. Applications in energy production, manufacturing, medicine, etc.

Prerequisites/Corequisites: PHYS 1100 and CHEM 1100.

MANE 4410 Applied Atomic and Nuclear Physics (AANP, Spring - some year depending on availability)

Review of atomic and nuclear physics and quantum mechanics; application to atomic, molecular and nuclear systems; particle and photon emissions; photon/particle interactions; quantum statistics; field theory of electricity and magnetism; Maxwell equations in free space and within materials; applications to semiconductors, superconductors, accelerators, fusion systems, nuclear reactors; key measurements and databases.

Prerequisites/Corequisites: Prerequisites: MANE 2830 or equivalent.

ENGR-1100 Introduction to Engineering Analysis (IEA, some terms)

An integrated development of linear algebra and statics emphasizing engineering applications and also incorporating computer exercises involving matrix techniques and calculations using available software packages.

ENGR 2600 Modeling and Analysis of Uncertainty (MAU, some terms)

Appreciation and understanding of uncertainties and the conditions under which they occur, within the context of the engineering problem-solving pedagogy of measurements, models, validation, and analysis. Problems and concerns in obtaining measurements; tabular and graphical organization of data to minimize misinformation and maximize information; and development and evaluation of models. Applications to problems in engineering are emphasized. Prerequisite: MATH-1010.

Advising & Mentoring
  • Between 2006 and 2022, Dr. Liu has served as advisor for over 200 undergraduate students.
  • At different times, over 50 undergraduate URP students have done research in Liu-E Research Group. 
  • Dr. Liu also served as a thesis committee member for over 35 PhD students and over 6 MS students. 
  • Currently Dr. Liu is focusing on building the student support and student societies in Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) department. She also temporarily serves as Graduate Program Director (GPD) for ISE.


In the past many years, Dr. Liu focuses on:

  • Service to the scientific and engineering community,
  • Broadening the participation of groups especially underrepresented in science, mathematics, engineering and technology,
  • Contributions to the science of learning,
  • Development of databases to support research and education, and
  • Development and/or refinement of research tools.

She will continue to do so for a better society and mankind. 

Awards & Honors
  • School of Engineering Teaching Award – Education Innovation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2021).
  • Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering (ELATE) Fellowship, Drexel University (2018-2019).
  • Arab-American Frontiers Fellowship, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, USA (2017).
  • The Class of 1951 Outstanding Teaching Award, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2013).
  • School of Engineering Teaching Award – Education Innovation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2013).
  • School of Engineering Research Excellence Award for a Junior Faculty Member, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012).
  • Career Campaign Award, RAMP-UP Program, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2009).
  • Faculty Development Grant Program Award (career), U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2008).
  • Cozzarelli Prize in Engineering and Applied Sciences for the article: “the violation of the Stokes-Einstein Relation in supercooled water” for its outstanding scientific excellence and originality, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2006).
  • Manson Benedict Fellowship, for excellence in academic performance and professional promise in nuclear science and engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This fellowship is considered to be the highest honor of the whole department and has one recipient every year (2003).
  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2000).
  • Institute Rosenblith Fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2000).
Presentations & Appearances

The most recent 10 presentations are:

  1. E. Liu, “Advancing Neutron Scattering to Explore Nano-scale Interfaces in Energy Systems”, invited seminar at Brookhaven National Laboratory NE/NN Seminar Series, virtual, 6/1/2022.
  2. E. Liu, “Life as an Enthusiastic and Empathetic Learner: from Supercooled Water to Building a More Climate-resilient Community”, invited talk at mini scientific symposium in memory of Prof. Chen, MIT, Cambridge, MA, 5/6/2022.
  3. E. Liu, “Advancing Neutron Scattering to Explore Nano-scale Physics in Energy Systems”, invited seminar at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, 4/29/2022.
  4. E. Liu, “Development of Neutron Measurements for In-Situ Interface Corrosion Kinetics and Salt Properties”, 2021 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants (ICAPP 2021), Virtual, 10/16-10/21/2021. 
  5. E. Liu, R. Hull, and J. Zhang, “In-Situ Corrosion & Salt Measurements for Molten Salt Systems in Solar and Nuclear Energy”, Arab-American Frontiers 2021, Virtual, 11/1-11/4/2021.
  6. E. Liu, R. Hull, and J. Zhang, “Development of In-Situ Corrosion Kinetics and Salt Property Measurements”, Department of Energy Gen3 CSP Summit 2021, Virtual, 8/25-8/26/2021.
  7. R. Bedell, E. Stefanis, J. Feng, and L. Liu, “Development of In-Situ Corrosion Kinetics and Salt Property Measurements”, Workshop on Molten Salt Thermal Properties – 2021, Salt Lake City, November 15-17, 2021.
  8. E. Liu, R. Hull, and J. Zhang, “Development of In-Situ Corrosion Kinetics and Salt Property Measurements”, ASME ES Track 5 CSP, Virtual, 6/16/2021-6/18/2021.
  9. L. Liu,Nuclear Data Research at the RPI Gaerttner LINAC Center”, Union for Compact Accelerator-driven Neutron Sources WEB Seminar 2020 (UCANS-WEB), 12/2/2020.


The following is a selection of recent publications in Google Scholar (Dr. Liu has 62 indexed publications in the subjects of Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and Energy.)

  1. J. Feng, G. Yuan, L. Mao, J. Leão, R. Bedell, K. Ramic, E. Stefanis, Y. Zhao, J. Vidal, and L. Liu, “Probing layered structure of Inconel 625 coatings prepared by magnetron sputtering,” Surface and Coatings Technology, 405, 126545 (2021), DOI: 10.1016/j.surfcoat.2020.126545.
  2. M. Zhang, J. Ge, J. Zhang, and L. Liu, “Redox potential measurement of AgCl in molten LiCl-KCl salt using chronopotentiometry and potentiodynamic scan techniques,” Electrochemistry Communications, Volume 105, Pages 106498: 1-5 (2019), DOI: 10.1016/j.elecom.2019.106498.
  3. K. Ramić, C. Wendorff, Y. Cheng, A. I Kolesnikov, D. L Abernathy, L. Daemen, G. Arbanas, L. Leal, Y. Danon, and L. Liu, “Thermal scattering law of (C2H4)n: Integrating experimental data with DFT calculations,” Annals of Nuclear Energy, Volume 120, Pages 778-787 (2018), DOI: 10.1016/j.anucene.2018.06.029.
  4. F. Laliberte, M. Li, J. Almer, and L. Liu. “In-situ synchrotron X-ray study of microstructural evolution during creep deformation in Grade 91 steel,” Materials Science and Engineering: A, Volume 737, Pages 115-123 (2018), DOI: 10.1016/j.msea.2018.09.033.
  5. L. Boldon, F. Laliberte, and L. Liu, “Review of the Fundamental Theories behind Small Angle X-ray Scattering, Molecular Dynamics Simulations and Relevant Integrated Application,” Nano Reviews, Volume 6, Pages 25661: 1-21 (2015), DOI:10.3402/nano.v6.25661.
  6. L. Liu, L. Bolden, M. Urquhart, X. Wang, “Small and Wide Angle X-Ray Scattering Studies of Biological Macromolecules in Solution,” Journal of Visualized Experiments, Volume 71, Pages e4160: 1-6 (2013), DOI: 10.3791/4160.
  7. B. Wu, Y. Liu, E. Mamontov, A. Kolesnikov, S. Diallo, C. Do, X. Li, L. Porcar, K. Hong, S. Smith, L. Liu, G. Smith, T. Egami, W.-R. Chen, “Charge-Dependent Dynamics of a Polyelectrolyte,” Journal of the American Chemical Society, Volume 135 (13), Pages 5111–5117 (2013), DOI: 10.1021/ja3125959.
  8. X. Li, B. Wu, Y. Liu, R. Pynn, C.-Y. Shew, G. S. Smith, K. W. Herwig, J. L. Robertson, W.-R. Chen, and L. Liu, “Contrast variation in spin-echo small angle neutron scattering,” Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, Volume 24, Pages 064115: 1-9 (2012), DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/24/6/064115.
  9. S.-H. Chen, F. Mallamace, C.-Y. Mou, M. Broccio, C. Corsaro, A. Faraone, and L. Liu, “The violation of Stokes-Einstein relation in supercooled water,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Volume 103, Pages 12974~12978 (2006), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0603253103.
  10. L. Liu, S.-H. Chen, A. Faraone, C.-W. Yen, and C.-Y. Mou, “Pressure Dependence of Fragile-to-Strong Transition and a Possible Second Critical Point in Supercooled Confined Water,” Physical Review Letters, Volume 95, Pages 117802:1-4 (2005), DOI: 10.1103/physrevlett.95.117802.

The following is a selection of recent publications in Scopus. Emily Liu has 24 indexed publications in the subjects of Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, and Energy.

Jinghua Feng, Li Mao, Guangcui Yuan, Youyang Zhao, Judith Vidal, Li (Emily) Liu
Corrosion Science
, 197
, 2022
Chris W. Chapman, Kemal Ramić, Xunxiang Hu, Jesse M. Brown, Goran Arbanas, Alexander I. Kolesnikov, Douglas L. Abernathy, Luke Daemen, Anibal (Timmy) J. Ramirez-Cuesta, Yongqiang Cheng, Matthew B. Stone, Li (Emily) Liu, Yaron Danon
Annals of Nuclear Energy
, 157
, 2021
D. Fritz, Y. Danon, E. Liu
Journal of Neutron Research
, 23
, 2021
, pp.179-184
Liam Carlson, Zeyun Wu, James Olson, Li (Emily) Liu
Science and Technology of Nuclear Installations
, 2020
, 2020
Jinsuo Zhang, Nathaniel Hoyt, Jake W. McMurray, Stephen S. Raiman, Michael Simpson, Michael P. Short, Emily Liu
Transactions of the American Nuclear Society
, 123
, 2020
, pp.179
Kemal Ramić, Carl Wendorff, Yongqiang Cheng, Alexander I. Kolesnikov, Doug L. Abernathy, Luke Daemen, Goran Arbanas, Luiz Leal, Yaron Danon, Li (Emily) Liu
Annals of Nuclear Energy
, 133
, 2019
, pp.425-430
Mingyang Zhang, Jianbang Ge, Jinsuo Zhang, Li Emily Liu
Electrochemistry Communications
, 105
, 2019
Jinghua Feng, Manfred Kriechbaum, Li Emily Liu
Nanotechnology Reviews
, 8
, 2019
, pp.352-369
Kemal Ramić, Carl Wendorff, Yongqiang Cheng, Alexander I. Kolesnikov, Doug L. Abernathy, Luke Daemen, Goran Arbanas, Luiz Leal, Yaron Danon, Li (Emily) Liu
Annals of Nuclear Energy
, 120
, 2018
, pp.778-787
Binghui Deng, Jie Hou, Hanxing Zhu, Sheng Liu, Emily Liu, Yunfeng Shi, Qing Peng
2D Materials
, 4
, 2017

View All Scopus Publications

ISE Department: Human-Machine Interface

What is industrial and systems engineering? The core intellectual theme is the analysis and design of systems involving the interaction between human, machines, or nature. Such systems are highly complex and require modeling of the variability introduced by the human element. These models are incorporated into the overall system design for optimized and robust operations. ISE is interdisciplinary: it encompasses engineering, management, human factor. ISE is systems oriented: it analyzes the interaction and interplay between components in complex networks. ISE is a unique engineering discipline: it integrates the quantitative engineering approach with qualitative insights of human behavior. Learn more.

Check out ISE news and events.


The Liu-E Research Group News

  • Congratulations to Dr. James Olson: passed the defense on 6/6/2022 to become Doctor of Engineering; and continue in Fall 22 to be Sr. Lecturer at Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, RPI. Way to go, Jim! 
  • Hope everyone stay safe and have a happy summer! (July 4, 2022)
  • PhD student Emily De Stefanis and Professor Liu were featured in Women in Engineering: Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering. (January 13, 2020)

Related Research and Education Trend and News

  • Just announced: the RPI team (Peter Brain, Addie Hervey, faculty advisor: Dr. Liu) won the best paper in the Undergraduate/Graduate Division of 2022 BNL Nuclear Engineering Exercise. Congratulations, Addie and Peter!
  • Call for nomination: 2022 NRC Nuclear Excellence Scholarship/Award, due 9/5/2022. Information and forms available at https://www.rpi.edu/dept/ne/public_html/index.html.
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