Successful measures

Lu Yang inched her way through her Ph.D in Chemistry, one course at a time.

Yang studied measurement—more precisely, how to improve accuracy and precision in measuring specific toxins in sediments. She carried out her research while working full-time as a senior technical officer and lab manager for the National Research Council’s Institute for National Measurement Standards.

“I found it’s quite a challenge to balance my work and my study,” says Yang. “As a full-time employee, I had to spend most of my nights studying.”

The damage to ecosystems at the hands of certain toxins is a growing problem. Developing more precise methods for measuring trace amounts of toxins will increase understanding of the biological effects of various chemicals, and in turn promote development of better international regulatory standards in regard to their use.

“The benefits of more precise measurements is that they can be used to study environmental samples in all kinds of situations,” says Yang.

Yang looked specifically at more precise ways of measuring tributyltin in sediments. Tributyltin is often found in paint applied to ship hulls to prevent sea life from attaching to it. Her research could help better understand how this chemical, while it works to protect our ships, might also affect aquatic environments.

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