Amazing Students Profiles

Sheena Zhang

Sheena Zhang

Having grown up around UGA, Sheena Zhang is serious about taking full advantage of all that the university has to offer and using her education and experience to impact the environment on a global scale. As a junior, she has already traveled abroad extensively and interned with the Joint US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy in Shanghai. She plans on concentrating on green architecture in graduate school and applying her knowledge and enthusiasm to the Chinese construction industry, which is expected to grow extensively in the coming years. In addition to her involvement in many sustainability efforts on campus, Sheena gives back to her hometown of Athens through Habitat for Humanity and by mentoring local students with autism spectrum disorders.


Athens, Ga.

High School:

Cedar Shoals High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in ecology and biology and an Honors Program Interdisciplinary Study in sustainable design in the built environment

Expected graduation:

Spring 2011

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I am heavily involved with Students for Environmental Action, an environmental group that promotes sustainability at UGA. Our campaign this year, UGA Beyond Coal, aims to replace the coal fired power plant on campus with viable, renewable, and just energy sources. This is in conjunction with the national Sierra Student Coalition Campuses Beyond Coal campaign. As an executive board member of the Go Green Alliance, member of the Ecology Club, founder of Building Friendship Frontiers (BFFs), an organization that mentors local high school kids with autism spectrum disorders, and D.J. at WUOG 90.5 FM, being bored is the least of my worries. I have served on the UGA Habitat for Humanity executive board as the vice president for community outreach and volunteer coordinator for the Ecofocus Film Festival. I have presented my research on genetic mutations of Rana terrestris populations from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone at the annual Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities symposium and spent 11 weeks last summer traveling through China on the National Science Foundation’s Partnership for International Research & Education Genetics of Invasive Species program. Part of my time in China was spent as an intern for clean energy non-profit Joint US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE) in Shanghai, where I researched and developed Web site content on the Chinese green building sector. As a recipient of UGA’s Foundation Fellowship, the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship, the Georgia Governor’s Scholarship, and the Coca-Cola Scholarship, I have been incredibly fortunate to study modernist British literature at Oxford University, backpack through Eastern Europe and Greece, travel to Costa Rica, and will be headed to Fiji this spring!

Family Ties to UGA:

My father has been a professor in the mathematics department at UGA since we moved to Athens sixteen years ago.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…it offers the best of two worlds! We have the opportunity to be in one of the best honors programs that offers an intimate experience with fellow students, accessible faculty, and excellent support and guidance, and have access to the perks of a huge research university such as diverse extracurricular options, bountiful resources, and state of the art facilities. And honestly, the Foundation Fellowship was too grand an incentive to turn down. I have found that the most significant and dearest benefit of which has been the community of invigorating, ambitious and genuinely kind peers. Plus Athens is a sweet little gem of culture and music that I’m glad to call my home.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… to bike down River Road in the autumn, winding between stands of golden trees with the sun peering through the leaves and brisk wind in my lungs. When it’s warmer, I like to spread out on any greenspace and get some work done. (i.e…nap). I am also chronically addicted to the Ecology building student lounge. The constant stream of close friends (human and canine) through the lounge contributes to a great atmosphere that makes it difficult to leave. But I’m not complaining…

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

I once stayed up all night to watch the sunset and sunrise atop Lykavittos Hill, the tallest peak in Athens, Greece. I was backpacking through Eastern Europe and Greece with a couple of friends, and we decided to hike up to the top of the hill, watch the sunset, then talk away the night until dawn. It was quite an experience, though I will say that walking back to our hostel sleep-deprived at 7 in the morning was not as romantic as we had imagined. However, the bonding experience of conversing by moonlight and seeing the sun rise and the city of Athens awaken was worth it. We also had a two hour conversation on American politics, sports, meditation, etc. with a Greek judo master who happened to pass us while doing laps on the mountain for training. I promise I did not make that up, as ludicrous as it sounds. It was a memorable night, to say the least!

My favorite place to study is…

…the reading room in the Miller Learning Center which offers the perfect atmosphere of luxury and workspace for those times that I really need to get productive. It kind of makes me feel like a middle aged man with a British accent and fashionable sweater vest, smoking a pipe while contemplating intellectually amongst the plush leather and wooden furniture. Or, for a less transformative experience, Cups coffee house on the east side of Athens offers a relaxing yet studious environment, as well as oh so delicious milkshakes.

My favorite professor is…

It’s so difficult to name just one favorite professor, as I’ve had so many that have become mentors and friends. I will say that Dr. Laurie Fowler in the Odum School of Ecology has been exceptional in her support and guidance as my primary professor for my Honors Interdisciplinary Study, especially as we shape and develop my thesis. Even though she is extremely involved and busy with her own responsibilities, she is always eager to offer advice and a heartwarming smile.

I am also grateful to Dr. Ron Carroll,ecology; Dr. Travis Glenn, environmental health sciences; Dr. Rodney Mauricio, genetics; Quint Newcomer,director of the UGA at Costa Rica program. Dr. Jennifer Smith, telecommunication arts; and Dr. Fran Teague, English. Though they are in very different academic fields, they all share a common passion for challenging and embracing students, and a commitment to furthering education in all forms.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…William McDonough, an architect that is one of the most prominent proponents of the Cradle to Cradle concept, which calls for ecologically intelligent design. It would be fascinating to interact with such an innovative and creative person who is using his strengths to champion the sustainability movement. What are the intricacies of the mind that can develop a concept so ground-breaking yet so simple?

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…play violin in a symphonic orchestra for a movie soundtrack! I love epic scores, and I love playing epic music even more. A soundtrack’s ability to completely alter the mood of a scene in film is quite interesting, and to be a part of the musical organism that makes a soundtrack would be spectacular.

After graduation, I plan to…

…attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree in architecture, specializing in green architecture. I’d love to delve deeper into the potential of biomimicry, the imitation of nature’s best designs to solve humanity’s problems, in the buildings we inhabit. Afterward, I’d like to work in China as a green architect. One of the many scary statistics is that by the year 2015, 50 percent of the world’s new buildings will be in China. With that much growth and construction, it is as important as ever that all construction be sustainable and, ideally, beneficial to the surrounding environment and people.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…seeing one of my favorite comedy sketch groups, the Whitest Kids U Know, perform live at the Tate Theater, and then getting to talk to them after the show! Meeting a group of comedic genius that has defined much of my sense of humor was surprisingly, an intense adrenaline-pumping experience. Another experience that dramatically raised my heartbeats per minute was ziplining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. I can’t quite describe the experience of being suspended via a harness to a greasy cable tied up in the forest canopy, zipping through a white oblivion. If time travel existed, I bet that’s what it would feel like.