Yujia Zhai is our Institute of Environmental Sciences' nominee for the C.J. Kok Jury Award 2019.
‘I am the first researcher to have assessed the effects of nanoparticles on the microscopic life that populates our soils.’
About Yujia Zhai's research
Nanoparticles are an increasing societal issue. Because of their small size, they have unique properties and are therefore increasingly used in all kinds of products. As a result, these nano-sized particles also end up in our environment. However, their effect on living organisms is still largely unknown. Environmental scientist Yujia Zhai is the first to have made a link between nanoparticles and microbial communities in the soil. In her dissertation, she combined a diverse range of techniques to characterise nanoparticles, to determine their toxicology, and to quantify their influence on the microbiome. She discovered, among others, that the shape of the particles could influence their toxicity. Furthermore, she found that repetitive exposure to nanoparticles could affect both community composition and functioning. The study is a first step towards understanding the impact of nanoparticles on the microscopic life that populates our soils.