Rui Cheng

PhD Candidate @Caltech

About Me

Hi, my name’s Rui and I’m a PhD Candidate at Frankenberg Lab, Caltech. My research interest is evaluating vegetation-climate feedbacks, such as carbon, water, and energy fluxes between land and atmosphere, using a fusion of remote sensing techniques, specifically in regions with limited direct measurements, including the Arctic and mountainous regions.

I am most skilled in: Solar-Induced chlorophyll Fluorescence (SIF), canopy reflectance, and vegetation phenology


California Institute of Technology

Ph.D. 2017 - present, M.S. 2018

Major: Environmental Science and Engineering

Minor: Electrical Engineering

Thesis Advisory Committee: Christian Frankenberg (Advisor), Tapio Schneider (Chair), Paul O. Wennberg, Anthony Bloom

Thesis: Remotely evaluating the seasonality of gross primary production at high latitudes


2017 Summer

Flux Course

Lehigh University

M.S. 2015 - 2017

Major: Earth and Environmental Science

Advisor: Benjamin Felzer

Thesis: The associated effects of temperature and soil moisture on forest carbon fluxes in the contiguous US

Sun Yat-sen University

B.S. 2011 - 2015

Major: Atmospheric Science

Advisor: Song Yang

Thesis: Characteristics of hot days in China with Central-Pacific El Niño

Projects & Publications

Photosynthetic Phenology in an Evergreen Needleleaf Forest in Colorado

Multi-scale studies on the seasonality of SIF, hyperspectral reflectance, canopy color, and GPP in Niwot Ridge, Colorado. These papers feature a canopy-level telescope, PhotoSpec (a.k.a. BEYONCE).

  • Cheng, R., Magney, T.S., Dutta, D., Bowling, D.R., Logan, B.A., Burns, S.P., Blanken, P.D., Grossmann, K., Lopez, S., Richardson, A.D. and Stutz, J., 2020. Decomposing reflectance spectra to track gross primary production in a subalpine evergreen forest. Biogeosciences, 17(18), pp.4523-4544.

  • Magney, T.S., Bowling, D.R., Logan, B.A., Grossmann, K., Stutz, J., Blanken, P.D., Burns, S.P., Cheng, R., Garcia, M.A., Kӧhler, P. and Lopez, S., 2019. Mechanistic evidence for tracking the seasonality of photosynthesis with solar-induced fluorescence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(24), pp.11640-11645.

  • Seyednasrollah, B., Bowling, D.R., Cheng, R., Logan, B.A., Magney, T.S., Frankenberg, C., Yang, J.C., Young, A.M., Hufkens, K., Arain, M.A. and Black, T.A., 2020. Seasonal variation in the canopy color of temperate evergreen conifer forests. New Phytologist.

Remotely Estimating Photosynthetic Seasonality in the Arctic

in prep

Radiative Transfer in Mountainous Regions

Topographic dependence of radiation and vegetation dynamics.

  • Cheng, R., Köhler, P., & Frankenberg, C. (under review), Impacts of Topography and Radiation on Temporal Upscaling of Instantaneous Solar-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

Interannaul Variability of Precipitation in SoCal

ENSO and PDO explain 20% of the interannual variability of total precipitation and precipitation frequency in SoCal.

  • Cheng, R., Novak, L., & Schneider, T., 2021. Predicting the interannual variability of California’s total annual precipitation. Geophysical Research Letters, 48, e2020GL091465.

Droughts and Floods in Ethnographic Reports

  • Felzer, B.S., Ember, C.R., Cheng, R. and Jiang, M., 2020. The Relationships of Extreme Precipitation and Temperature Events with Ethnographic Reports of Droughts and Floods in Nonindustrial Societies. Weather, Climate, and Society, 12(1), pp.135-148.

Indoor Navigation

  • Zhang, D., Qiu, G., Gao, Y., Fang, X., Cheng, R., Chang, A. and Chan, C.Y., 2014, October. Crowdsourcing based radio map anomalous event detection system for calibration-on-demand. In 2014 International Conference on Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation (IPIN) (pp. 220-229). IEEE.


2021 Spring

GE 157c: Remote Sensing for Environmental and Geological Applications

Prof. Bethany Elmann, Caltech

2019 Winter

ESE 103: Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles

Prof. Christian Frankenberg, Caltech

2018 Winter

ESE 131a: Physical Oceanography I

Prof. Jörn Callies, Caltech

2018 Fall

ESE 101: Earth’s Atmosphere

Prof. Tapio Schneider, Caltech

2019 - present

Data and Coding Instructor at the Carpentries, Caltech


Certificate of Participation in Teacher Development Program (I+II), Lehigh University

A Little More About Me

Alongside my research interests, my other interests and hobbies are:

  • Science Outreach
  • DEI advocacy on women in STEM
  • Roadtrips
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Jogging

Look at this cool image I took along the Dalton Highway in Brooks Range, Alaska.