Her background is in plant genetics and breeding. Her research has been focused on drought tolerance, heat tolerance and water use efficiency in crop plants, particularly in wheat. This has included phenotyping, genotyping and germplasm enhancement, specifically in the evaluation of germplasm resources, genetic diversity, and favourable gene/allele discovery. She has been principal investigator for several national projects aiming to understand mechanisms and improve drought tolerance and efficient water use of crop plants. Ruilian also led the commissioned project of CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme entitled “Wheat breeding and selection strategies to combine and validate QTLs for WUE and heat tolerance in China”.