HanByul Chang (she/her)
JD-PhD Candidate in Chemistry
HanByul Chang is a JD-PhD candidate in Chemistry within the Pritzker School of Law and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up spending her time between Busan, South Korea and Moscow, Russia and graduated from Gordon College in Massachusetts. HanByul’s current research uses heterodyne-detected SHG on surfaces of buried biomembranes and earth-abundant minerals to study their interaction with prevalent engineered particles and ions.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
I study the interactions and impact that commonly used chemicals have on the environment, including biological surfaces and geological minerals. More specifically, my research is focused on lithium-ion batteries and the chemicals that make up those batteries. I examine how we can study, predict, and mitigate the environmental impact of those materials via both science and legal approaches.
What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
Something that I have been thinking a lot about recently as I get more serious about putting together my PhD dissertation is how I can bring two worlds together to write one, cohesive story. My overarching theme is lithium-ion batteries. However, how do I make my dissertation applicable and attractive to both scientists and legal scholars? What are some of the things that scientists care to know from the legal perspective and vice versa? These types of questions are definitely among the most challenging and fundamental ones as I not only put together my thesis but continue to work in a field that marries these two worlds.
What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized how consumers live their lives. These batteries are popular among consumer electronics and electric vehicles because of their superior capacity. However, there are reports of potential environmental hazards connected to this technology. My research dives deeper into the interactions of these materials. While I do not directly study how hazardous these materials are, my research does provide a way for other scientists to think about the fundamental interactions between the environment and the different materials that make up these batteries. Complimenting my PhD research, my legal research will provide ways to make the manufacture and use of lithium-ion batteries safer and better for both the environment and consumers.
My main draw to Northwestern was its extremely flexible JD-PhD program. There are other schools across the country who have the JD-PhD program, but Northwestern provided the most flexibility in terms of what PhD field I could choose. On top of that, I was able to find a research adviser in the Chemistry department who was and continues to be very supportive of my program.
How do you unwind after a long day?
With a glass of wine and some Netflix.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
Take your time. Don't rush. It will all work out. Just keep your eyes on the target and enjoy the ride.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Deciding to take on the challenge and starting the joint program. Accepting the offer to join the joint program meant numerous changes and unknowns. I had family and friends in Boston. I had a job. I had no idea how this joint program was going to look combining the two fields. I was the only person in the joint program who had pursued a PhD in Chemistry. I took up the challenge, and I think that was the best thing I could have done for my career and future.
Published: April 12, 2022
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