Assistant Professor Zhongqi Cheng

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences


Interviewed by Honors Academy student Bushra Wazed

When Zhongqi Cheng began his college studies in China, he had hoped to study rocket science. But with no program in that major available, Cheng instead focused on geochemistry. He knew he was satisfied with his choice of major when he found that the research projects he worked on really affected people's daily lives. "The first project that made me realize what I was doing was important was a project on lead. My research results gave policymakers and companies very useful information so that they could make informed decisions as to how to properly deal with lead pipes."

His research since coming to Brooklyn College is relevant not only to individuals but to the health of the city. "My lab is studying urban soil contamination in New York and its impact on urban agriculture and people's health. It's one thing I really feel proud of. Our group is probably the first to initiate a study on this issue in New York. We are also looking at arsenic mobilization and removal, and the effects of storm water on the urban environment and its management." Having a direct impact on the community has made Cheng particularly proud. "Many people have told me that they are proud of Brooklyn College for helping them look at their garden soils. We are getting out and helping our community."

Cheng loves the diversity of Brooklyn College as well as the work ethic of the students. "The atmosphere here is different in that most students commute. You can really see that they work very hard. Being able to help them as a professor is very satisfying." As someone who started out as a traditional geologist but now considers himself an environmental scientist, Cheng has advice for students who want to stay ahead in this ever-changing world. "You don’t always have to stick to one field exclusively, but with the knowledge that you gain, you can explore other fields as well. There is opportunity, and there is always hope, as long as you are willing to explore."