Born in Lixin, a rural, agricultural, and peaceful area in Anhui, Lei witnessed and experienced the economic development and the associated environmental issues in China. This became the most driving factor for him to study environmental science as his concentration when he was enrolled in Nankai University as an undergraduate in 2004. Later on in 2008, he went to Peking University, where he found his strong interests in atmospheric modeling and satellite observations, to pursue a Master Degree. The research experience in Peking University had really broadened his horizon, and thus made him devoted into atmospheric science studies. Lei joined Harvard Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group (ACMG) in 2011 as a PhD student. In 2016, Lei received his PhD from Harvard. He has been working as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard ACMG since then .
Three pillars of Lei's research are: atmospheric models, satellite measurements and aircraft campaigns.