Jacqueline Zhu: Biophysics

Jacqueline Zhu: Biophysics

Jacqueline Zhu, who hails from the Zhejiang Province in China, decided to study biophysics in order to integrate her studies across the chemistry, mathematics and physics departments.

Originally, Zhu had intended to become a chemistry major with a concentration in biochemistry, but after learning that she would only need to complete two additional physics courses to become a biophysics major, she decided to pursue it. 

The decision was an excellent one, she says, as it led her to take additional physics and math classes that were interesting and would also be especially helpful once she joined the workforce. Zhu will not be joining the workforce next year, however. Instead, she will be pursuing a master’s degree at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

“I am going to study computational and quantitative biology,” she said. “The stats and math-based courses will be very helpful in the health sector, and are especially relevant now, with the outbreak of COVID-19.”

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Zhu’s path was not always so clear cut. “The way I chose Wake [Forest] was kind of random, I first applied because I saw a photo online and the school looked beautiful.” 

Once Zhu was accepted, her decision was easy, in large part due to the fantastic research opportunities that Wake Forest provides. 

“I knew I wanted to study biology, and based on the wide ranging research opportunities Wake [Forest] offers, for a relatively small school, I knew this was where I wanted to go,” she said. “It was so easy to get research opportunities, all I had to do was ask my professors if they were doing research and what kind. At other universities, these kinds of opportunities would be much harder to obtain.”

Research has been one of the defining features of Zhu’s past four years of study, as she has done research in both the chemistry and the biophysics department. 

“The research has been one of my favorite experiences from my time here. I was lucky that I had fantastic professors to work with and partners that were inclusive and helpful,” Zhu said. 

Her efforts were greatly appreciated by those she worked with, including Physics Professor Daniel Kim-Shapiro, who she began to work with after he supervised a lab section she was enrolled in during her junior year. 

“She always seemed to know what was going on and would explain it to her lab partner. I was really pleased when she asked to do research in my lab and got a URECA fellowship to work over the summer,” Kim-Shapiro said. “She mastered her project so quickly that I had to find another project for her to work on.”

         Zhu’s dedication to her studies and research has been evident to many of her professors. Clifford Zeyl, a professor in the biology department, first met Zhu when she enrolled in a large lecture class he taught, and immediately took note of her curiosity.

“I got to know her from several conversations in my office during the fall 2018 semester and in subsequent semesters. Those conversations in my office ran well over an hour and through a variety of topics. It seemed to be in her nature to move thoughtfully from one idea to the next rather than coming in to ask a question about a course and then leaving,” Zeyl said. “It’s always a pleasure to talk with a student more animated by ideas than by their grades.”

         Besides from her studies, Zhu is involved with the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and has worked shifts with Campus Kitchen.

         When reflecting on her time at Wake Forest, Zhu has mixed feelings. 

“I want to graduate and move on, but I also really love what I have here. My relationships with professors is something I will definitely miss, but I’ve had a great time over the past four years,” she said. 

It’s evident that her professors will miss her, too.

“She has not only been a great asset in the lab, but lots of fun too,” Kim-Shapiro said. “I am so proud of all she has accomplished and know she will make the world a better place.”

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