Yazhi Sun - Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Collecting vegetable samples in the field

Career goal: 

To become a scholar in environmental health, researching the effects of environmental exposure on human health.

Internship outline: 

I conducted a field environmental health research project with Environmental Health Center in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The project focuses on heavy metal exposure to human health at a historic gold mining area in  Apușeni Mountains of Transylvania, aiming at characterizing behavioral differences between individuals leading to environmental exposures. Working with colleagues in the center, I collected local soil, water and vegetable samples, and comprehensive questionnaire data aimed at  classifying broad scope of behaviors and population demographics that may be linked to environmental exposure. Multiple methods were employed  for the assessment of heavy metal concentration in environmental samples, focusing on mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium. The analysis of questionnaire data to define the role human behavior plays in environmental exposure is in process, for a better understanding of potential impacts from mixed media exposure.

Value of experience: 

Since I was a biomedical engineering student who only spent time in a research lab, I really appreciated this opportunity for me to work in the field, gaining valuable experience in environmental health study. This project involves the Environmental Health Center,  the local mining company, the US EPA and other institutions. It has been a great opportunity to discuss with different sides about the research procedure. Also, the fieldwork allowed me to get inside of local houses, experiencing local lifestyle and culture difference. Through this 10-week summer internship, I returned with precious research experience and a stronger desire to study environmental health.

Best moment/experience: 

The best time I had in Romania is interacting with local people. In the field, I visited local residents in a rural area, enjoying scenery and culture differences. My Romanian and American colleagues are so nice and we became good friends. Thanks to my warm-hearted Romanian colleague, I visited her hometown, which has beautiful scenery with long history, and Transfagarasan, which is the most beautiful road in Romania. I really enjoyed local culture and had a wonderful time there.

Funding source: 

Stolwijk Fellowship