Roger Zhu

Biography Paragraphs
Roger Zhu

Roger completed PhD in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in December 2020. For his dissertation research, Roger studied the physics behind fish swimming and how to apply that knowledge to improve the efficiency of underwater robots. He completed PhD Plus skills series of Business in Society, Communicating Research, Consulting and Data Literacy core modules.

Roger was a PhD Plus intern in the Economic and Policy studies unit of the University’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in summer and fall of 2020, under mentorship of Prof. William Shobe. At present, he is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and Product Design Lead at Redwood.

Q. What are your career aspirations?

A. I am interested in working in technology or consulting fields that addresses sustainability and climate change.

Q. Please summarize your internship experience.

A. I applied for the PhD Plus internship at Weldon Cooper Center to gain experience in business and non-academic research outside my research field. I contributed to several projects at Weldon Cooper Center and Environmental Resilience Initiative where researchers and policymakers are studying the impact of different energy transition pathways on the energy industry and environment of Virginia. I received great mentorship from Prof. William Shobe, Dr. Arthur Small, Dr. Anthony Artuoso, and Prof. Andres Clarens. They taught me how to approach an engineering problem with consideration of humanity and society as well.

Q. What professional skills did you develop through this internship?

A. I gained a lot of skills in project management, which involves planning and communication with the team. Our team typical comprised of 2 – 3 graduate students and 1 -2 undergraduate students from diverse professional backgrounds ranging from engineering to public policy. I prepared a 10-minute overview presentation to familiarize new student members with our research project and had conversations with them afterwards to identify how they can best contribute to and benefit from the project. We adjusted goals for each team member dynamically based on feedback during our weekly group meetings. I learned how to set up milestones for our research project and check in with teammates to make sure we are on the right track and at a reasonable pace.  

Q. How has this internship assisted in your career development?

A. This internship has opened my eyes to the fast-growing renewable energy and sustainability industry in the US and demonstrated the possibility of establishing a small team to solve data-related problems efficiently. The internship experience helped me land my first job as a product design lead at a startup ed-tech company, and I am planning to either work for a renewable data science company in the near future or establish my own practice.

Q. What advice would you give peers on utilizing PhD Plus internships for career development?

A. The biggest take-away from this PhD Plus internship is the relationships I built with my co-workers and the teamwork skills I gained. I think these two aspects should be part of the focus for future interns, in addition to the domain knowledge they will learn through the internship.

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