I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Duke Professor Junfeng “Jim” Zhang, an avid environmental health researcher who has done amazing work on air pollution research. Because of my own interest in air pollution and its adverse health effects, I began by trying to grasp Dr. Zhang’s work through his detailed scientific explanations of his projects, such as looking at the human health effects of nano-technology.

Junfeng (Jim) Zhang is a professor of global and environmental health in the Nicholas School and the Duke Global Health Institute

Junfeng (Jim) Zhang is a professor of global and environmental health in the Nicholas School and the Duke Global Health Institute

From my reading on the projects I was interested in, I did not expect Zhang to be able to step back and capture the importance of his research in simple terms because his projects were quite complicated (such as testing human health effects due to chemically altered diesel fuel). However, it turned out that Zhang is well-versed in communicating both crucial details of his research and the overall meaning for human health.

The most captivating aspect of my interview with Zhang was our discussion of his contribution to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Zhang essentially concluded that burning and replanting trees is not necessarily carbon-neutral, disproving the common view that replanting burned trees is always carbon-neutral. His arguments really sold the importance of his research to me and I very quickly agreed with his views on the consequences of his research.

My interview with Zhang also revealed just how important scientific research is in adding evidence and findings to support a side on the growing global issues of environmental pollution and protection. It really amazed me how researchers play such a crucial supportive role in not only protecting the world’s environment, but advancing the quality of human life.

UPDATE – Professor Zhang spoke with BBC about air pollution in China. Read the story here.

PeterChengGuest Post by Peter Cheng, a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Math.