Around the Yard: Daniel Chang

Around the Yard: Daniel Chang

Daniel Chang
Senior
Men’s Swimming and Diving 

How long have you been a research assistant in the environmental engineering sciences lab and how did you find out about the opportunity?
I first started doing research on campus during my sophomore fall semester when my concentration advisor sent out a flyer to the environmental engineers looking for research assistants.  It was purely chance but the project fit my interests so perfectly and I had an amazing first mentor. 

Are you working with a professor on a single project? Multiple professors? Multiple projects? Your own research? Can you give a brief explanation of some of the tasks you do or a project you're working on now? 
I have worked on three different projects during the last two years and they have all centered around my general interest of researching solutions to various types of pollution in aquatic ecosystems.  One of them included going to Tokyo as part of the 2018 Reischauer Summer Science Program to work on a project at Tokyo Tech (picture attached of my weekend trip to hike Mount Fuji!).  I am now a research assistant in Professor Elsie Sunderland's lab working on construction of a simulation tool for microplastic formation in coastal environments for my engineering thesis design project.

Can you talk about one of your favorite experiences or projects in the lab?
My favorite project is probably my current project about microplastics.  They are such a buzzword in society, so being able to learn about them extensively and have conversations with different professors about the current research has been amazing. 

Why is the research you're doing important or how can your results be utilized in the future?
The research I'm currently working on with microplastics is important to better understand how we can fix this pollution problem.  Microplastics have been found everywhere, including the food and drinks that we put on our table.  I hope that providing to the scientific conversation surrounding microplastics and start to inform some serious solutions to the problem. 

Are you involved in any other environmental groups on campus? What is your role?
This year, I am starting my second year as Quincy House's Green REP as part of the Office for Sustainability's Resource Efficiency Program.  As a REP, we aim to promote sustainable practices and mindsets amongst our peers through community building activities and events.  We hold study breaks in the dining halls for our houses and inter-house competitions! 

What do you think are some of the top priorities to improve sustainability?
My main approach to improving sustainability amongst my peers is through awareness and community building.  No one will change their mind if you approach it with negativity and aggression, so I love being able to be my extroverted self and positively encourage my peers to practice sustainable habits every day. 

Do you see either of these roles translating to a future job or something you'd continue to be involved with after college?
Definitely! After college, I want to maintain the same mindset I've had through my different extracurriculars at Harvard which are making an impact.  While they may not translate directly, the underlying attitude of doing good for people and the environment is the goal.