DURHAM, N.C. – Zhen Wang, who recently earned his PhD in environmental geochemistry, will be the student speaker at the Nicholas School of the Environment’s 2023 PhD Graduate Student Recognition Ceremony.

He will address his fellow graduating students and their family and friends in a private ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, at the Wilson Recreation Center on Duke’s West Campus.

Wang defended his dissertation, “Tracing Anthropogenic Metal(oid) Contaminants in the Environment Using Geochemical, Radiogenic, and Radioactive Isotopic Tools,” in March. He is a member of Avner Vengosh’s lab. Vengosh, Emily Klein, Gary Dwyer and Xio-Ming Liu of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill served on his doctoral dissertation committee.

Already a prolific researcher, Wang is the author or coauthor of 16 peer-reviewed publications, including widely cited studies on coal ash contamination in soils and surface waters, lead contamination in urban soils, radium contamination in groundwater, and the global biochemical cycle of lithium.

In 2019, he was lead author on a paper that identified lead isotopes as a new and highly accurate tracer for detecting coal fly ash in the environment—an important advancement in efforts to monitor and measure the contamination.

Earlier this month, he received a prestigious Excellence in Review Award from the International Association of Geochemistry (IAGC) in recognition of his outstanding work as a reviewer for the IAGC’s peer-reviewed journal Applied Geochemistry. It’s an award that usually goes to mid- or late-career scholars.

Learn more about all 2023 Nicholas School recognition ceremonies