Yeyang (Benson) Zu

Meet UCLA senior, Yeyang (Benson) Zu, who is majoring in Environmental Sciences and minoring in Environmental Engineering and Statistics. He was recently published as co-author the papers, “Nitrate removal uncertainty in stormwater control measures: Is the design or climate a culprit?” in WaterResearch and “Biochar Selection for Escherichia coli Removal in Stormwater Biofilters” in the Journal of Environmental Engineering. 

Yeyang is a part of Dr. Sanjay Mohanty’s lab in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

How did you first get involved in your research project? 

I was interested in exploring the water treatment field after finishing C&EE 154, so I approached Professor Mohanty’s research group, named the SEALab, early in the winter of my second year. Professor Mohanty took a chance on me, and he is extraordinarily caring about his lab members. I was assigned to assist a Ph.D. candidate Renan, who is also extremely patient in teaching me experiment design and lab skills. Even though I have pivoted my focus to energy study for graduate school, experiences in the SEALab are the most inspiring research experience I have had at UCLA.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

I am inspired to learn how to design an experiment from reviewing the literature, stating hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data. I appreciate having the opportunity to work with Renan. I studied stormwater treatment systems to improve pollutants removal. In particular, I assisted laboratory experiments that link biochar properties with its bacterial (E.coli) and munition compounds (Nitrate) removal efficiency. My lab skills also get improved by producing agar plates, quantifying the E.coli data samples by using spread-plate methods. Even during the pandemic, I also collected and analyzed over 30 research publications to view the potential impact of different SCMs design and various climates on nitrate removal. Fortunately, two of our research were written in papers and got published.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

I want to encourage those who haven’t found their passions in science research to reach out bravely. I understand it’s hard to find something you feel very passionate about, but it should not be an excuse for us to not get involved in research. You will find that each research field has its attractions if you study deep enough. Even if you decided to pivot your study afterward, the analysis and lab skills will still get honed. Studying in such a campus with oceans of resources, I highly recommend you do not hesitate to participate in research.

What are your future career goals?

I will continue my energy study at Stanford University for the MS program under the Civil Environmental Engineering Department. I aim to research how to organize diverse energy sources such as coal, solar, and wind, providing the most sustainable and efficient electricity or heat supply. I aim to earn a Ph.D. degree and have my own company in either infrastructure or transportation planning.