Equipped with a passion for research and mentoring others, Architectural Engineering PhD candidate Emma Zhang has found gratification through Teaching Assistant (TA) roles, and as a STAR Scholars Program Mentor. With a research focus in natural ventilation, Zhang shared her study focus “My passion is to look at how to effectively utilize wind as a driving force to ventilate buildings, so that we reduce energy consumption for mechanical ventilation, as well as improve thermal comfort of occupants in the building as we are introducing fresh air from outside.”
While closures surrounding COVID-19 have halted her ability to participate in on-campus studies, Zhang continues to enjoy the work. She maintains contact by working with students as a TA, and has enjoyed being able to dedicate more time to focus on her studies and research interests.
“I really enjoy the TA experience. I do the grading as well as office hours. I’m very excited to answer students’ questions, because in that process I’m also learning how to think about what I’ve learned from a new perspective,” says Zhang. “Some of the students are first or second years, and I need to know how to represent what they are learning in a more understandable way for them to grasp the knowledge.”
Zhang has been a TA for several courses, and has recognized the common theme of efficiency awareness. Her studies have involved reducing the energy consumption of larger buildings, and it has fueled her research as a PhD student. This past summer, she had the opportunity to work as a STAR Scholars Program Mentor with CAE Assistant Professor, Dr. L. James Lo. Together, they mentored student Jyrteanna Teo to analyze natural ventilation potentials in a Department of Energy (DoE) Prototype School Building.
“My student was awesome. She came into the office really early every morning, and was very hardworking and brilliant,” Zhang recalls, a bright smile on her face. “I’m most excited to encourage her to think as a researcher so she knows how to debug and figure it out, because you never know what’s going on in the background.”
Zhang’s passion for research does not end with earning her degree. She hopes to continue in academics as she garners a further understanding of software used in her field. She notes research as her greatest passion, and hopes to continue working on this in a postdoctoral position-- perhaps even with a Consulting Firm in the future.
“I will continue in this field to do more research. I'm really excited about that. I think it's a good choice for me.”