Oumeng Zhang’s biggest strength is his creativity.
“I personally value innovation a lot,” Zhang said. “I think that’s the most important part of a PhD.”
As a student in the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, Zhang has contributed to several innovations — from developing new technologies to breakthroughs in the field of optics. And this May, he’ll graduate from Washington University in St. Louis with a doctorate in electrical engineering.
“Since I was young, I’ve always enjoyed exploring how things work,” Zhang said. “Doing a PhD in engineering provided an exciting opportunity and essential training to design and build new devices that reveal things that have never been explored before.”
Zhang trained in the lab of Matthew Lew, assistant professor of electrical & engineering, helping to develop novel imaging techniques that study biological and chemical systems at the nanoscale.
“I have been interested in physics since high school, but since I did electrical engineering as an undergraduate, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to optics,” he said.
He quickly caught up. During his time at WashU, Zhang published eight papers in the Lew lab in top journals — six as the first author and two as a co-author. One paper included his discovery of a previously unknown limit to the accuracy of imaging systems in quantifying how objects rotate.
He also holds two patents for imaging devices developed in the lab: the Tri-Spot Point-Spread Function and the Multi-View Reflector Microscope. According to Lew, the newly invented pieces of hardware “push the limits of super-resolution microscopy.”
The COVID pandemic may have slowed his research down, but it didn’t stop it. Zhang and Lew worked together to research theoretical concepts in optical imaging, leading to Zhang being named as first author on two more papers.
“One of the good things about our lab is that we have experts in both theoretical and hardware implementation,” said Zhang.
This fall, he’ll start as a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech. After that, he wants to continue making amazing discoveries.
“I would like to be a professor in the future and have my own lab one day,” he said. “I like research, and I like teaching.”