Mengzhen Xu is presently the Director of River Research Institute, Tsinghua University. She holds a Doctoral degree as Hydraulic Engineering (Tsinghua University) and finished her dissertation about “Experimental Study of Macroinvertebrate Limnoperna fortunei Invasion and Prevention in Water Transfer Tunnels” in 2012. After two years as scientific researcher in Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, Oslo, Norway working on impact of climate change on sediment transport in rivers, she received a position as assistant professor in the Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University. She was promoted as associate professor in 2017 and at the same time was nominated as the director. She has been serving as Executive Committee Member in the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research China (Mainland) Chapter (IAHR China) since 2017, and Committee Board Members in the IAHR Committees: River, Coastal, and Estuarine Morphodynamics (RCEM), and Ecohydraulics since 2018. During her professional career she visited several international universities and research institutes in the US, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, South Africa, and also Ecuador in 2018.
Interfaces between hydraulics, structures, sediment, and aquatic organisms are her passion in research. She has been working on mussel biofouling on hydraulic structures, studying for the mechanisms of concrete deterioration and reduction in water transfer efficiency caused by the biofouling for more than 10 years. She develops an integrated technology controlling the biofouling in industrial and drinking water transfer facilities based on the well understanding of the interfaces between hydraulics, structures, and biofouling. Her scientific approaches are on a multidisciplinary level working together with engineers, biologists, ecologists, and others. Her research projects cover a wide range of topics in eco-hydraulics, eco-sedimentation, and geomorphology, such as landscape evolution and natural hazards, channel stability and morphology, stream ecology, fish migration and cavefish conversation, the interaction between river dynamics and aquatic ecosystem, hydraulic engineering and mussel invasion and controlling, etc. Field observation and model development have been very important components of her research, with considerable experimental flume work used to complement field data. She has published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers in international journals and conferences, and Chinese journals, and co-authored of two English monographs and two Chinese monographs. Her major scientific achievements include the mechanisms of concrete deterioration and water transfer efficiency reduction caused by mussel biofouling on hydraulic structures and its controlling strategies, characteristics of aquatic ecology in highland rivers, sediment transport by glacier-fed rivers, river dynamics and its interactions with stream physical and biological characteristics. She gained the J.F. Kennedy Award in the 35th International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) world congress with her outstanding research in prevention of mussel invasion and biofouling in artificial water transfer systems. Her work in studying effect of streambed sediment on benthic ecology was also recognized as outstanding contribution to sedimentation studies by the World Association for Sedimentation and Erosion Research (WASER).