SCSAM Fellow Spotlight: Yunlang Zhang

A senior in Case Western Reserve University's Department of Environmental, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Yunlang Zhang was able to explore electron microscopy as a Summer 2022 Case School of Engineering SCSAM Fellow and found it to provide "efficient and accurate ways for studying geology."

Currently studying lake sediment for his senior project, Zhang's advisor, Professor Beverly Saylor, recommended that he apply for a fellowship and use scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to image his sediment's calcite crystals. Zhang's project focuses on reconstructing paleoclimate during the mid-holocene warm period by using fossil pollen from Lake Erie. He has also found that sediment records provide information for interpreting the paleoclimate and the response of the lake.

"(Microscopy) can provide me with a further understanding of lake chemistry and what was happening in Lake Erie between 3,000 and 12,000 years ago at the time of deposition,” said Zhang, who also appreciated being able to add “beautiful” SEM images to his thesis.

Working with SCSAM's ThermoFisher Apreo 2S SEM, Zhang has appreciated finding the ideal focal point for his images. “I enjoy seeing my images become clear and in focus from being fuzzy,” he said. “This project helped me learn more about the environmental side of geology and really opened up a new platform for me, which is using the past as an analogue for the future. It provides me with a new way of thinking.”

"Yunlang has been great to work with on the SEM,” said SCSAM Executive Director Jeffrey Pigott. “He is inquisitive and enthusiastic. He has always been thoughtful and prepared and really picked up operating the Apreo quickly."

Zhang credited his fellowship with opening up a new platform for him: using the past as an analogue for the future. Having recently been awarded an On To The Future Award from the Geological Society of America, he looks forward to attending the GSA's meeting in Denver this coming October, where he will explore career and grad school options.