Junyu Zhang of Chongqing, China, will be honored as the student marshal for the Eberly College of Science during Penn State’s fall commencement ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 17, on the University Park campus.
Zhang will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and bachelor’s degrees in astronomy, physics, and mathematics. He is a Schreyer Scholar in the Schreyer Honors College and has been a member of the Dean’s List every semester. Zhang has been honored with several awards and scholarships, including the John and Elizabeth Holmes Teas Scholarship from 2021 to 2022, the Bert Elsbach Honors Scholarship from 2020 to 2021, the Evan Pugh Scholar Senior Award in 2021, and the President’s Freshman Award in 2020.
“It is my great honor to be selected as student marshal for the Eberly College of Science,” he said. “I could not have achieved such a huge accomplishment without the support of my family, my mentors, my professors, and my friends. Therefore, I would like to share this honor with them.”
While at Penn State, Zhang conducted research with both Joel Leja, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics, and Niel Brandt, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics and professor of physics. In his work with Leja, Zhang used a computer code called Prospector to investigate various wavelengths of light that are emitted by galaxies in order to identify markers that might distinguish galaxies that normally form stars from “rejuvenating galaxies” that fully quench—stop producing stars—and then become star-forming once more. Because rejuvenating galaxies are rare in the universe, these studies may help astronomers better understand the conditions under which stars and galaxies form. With Brandt, Zhang used data from X-ray surveys to identify active galactic nuclei found at the centers of some galaxies that have high redshift—the light they give off is skewed toward the red end of the spectrum due to their distance from Earth—and to better understand how they affect their host galaxies.
“The most important lesson that I will take with me from my time at Penn State is to follow your heart,” Zhang said. “One of the bravest decisions I ever made was to transfer to Penn State and change my major. Although I lost almost all three years I spent at my original university, I am now able to study what I love and achieve such an accomplishment like becoming a student marshal.”
After graduation, Zhang plans to continue his research in astronomy by pursuing a graduate degree.
Zhang is a graduate of Chongqing Nankai Secondary School in Chongqing, China. His parents are Li Mu and Kedi Zhang.