SEEd Scholarship Winner

Christina Zhang

How does Christina define energy?

Christina defines energy as, “the quantitative potential for a system to do work, such as that which can be translated into motion, causing transformation, or overcoming resistance. It is what drives processes on Earth and human civilization.” 

Student Profile 

Christina Zhang, a former Clements high school student from Richmond, Texas, has had an elevated awareness of energy’s impact on her life and the environment from an early age. She first became aware of the importance of energy and sustainability in first or second grade. Her experience living in China made her conscious of energy systems and their influence on the environment and her community. The contrast between the health of her relatives in China and her family in the states was significant. Over time, she developed a strong understanding of the value of having electricity and clean water.

She knew she wanted to use her skills to help her community and make a difference in the world. Coming from a low-income Chinese immigrant family, scholarships to fund her academic career were extremely important for her success. After doing some research, she came across the Smart Energy Education Scholarship on the San Antonio Area Foundation Scholarship website. Having an interest in sustainability and energy awareness, she felt immediately drawn to the SEE organization. 

Her curiosity prompted her to take a closer look at how energy factors into the wellness of a community. In her examination, she observed cultural differences, such as the normality of wearing masks in heavily polluted areas in China. In addition, she noted the overall lack of energy awareness in the US. She observed infrastructural weakness, a lack of proper utilities like air purifiers and AC, and limited public transportation. And through this exploration, one thing became increasingly apparent. For a community to access vital infrastructural systems, they need access to energy. 

A lack of energy education, conservation, sustainability, and efficiency strategies could leave entire countries vulnerable to socioeconomic conditions and natural disasters that can quickly render their resources scarce. Taking proper care of a community and efficiently using available resources requires innovative minds. A frequent lack of initiative from corporations and government entities discouraged Christina. People didn’t seem to grasp the significance of using the earth’s resources wisely. The immediate economic gain consistently overshadowed the potential catastrophes caused by excess waste. 

Thankfully, increased awareness of clean energy and abnormal climate disasters has pushed organizations to implement more sustainable practices. Now green efforts are finally making progress, and Christina, like many other people, has gained a more hopeful perspective. It is the age of information technology. Younger generations are much more aware of the destructive consequences of unsustainable industrial practices. 

Christina’s passion for helping the environment and bettering the welfare of others, inspired by her family background, is one of her primary motivators. Christina Christina believes “there are amazing long-term benefits when you strengthen a community and create a path for them to excel.” She elaborates, “I often reflect on the journey of my parents from their country to the United States … I feel intimately linked to their experience, and feel that my background pushes me to elevate not simply myself but a greater collective.”

Christina was drawn to The University of Texas at San Antonio due to their first-rate computer science program. Through the organization’s Geekdom and CivTechSA, she was introduced to energy careers and is pursuing a career in software engineering with a focus on optimizing per-use effectiveness. Christina feels confident that as a Smart Energy Education Scholarship recipient, she will be much better prepared to take on the challenges in her career. In the long run, she plans to use her knowledge to ensure that data centers source clean energy properly and increase the efficiency of their systems and processes. 

San Antonio has always been a leader when it comes to clean energy. Over the years, numerous programs have been created to benefit local and underserved communities. As a software programmer, Christina aims to “improve power usage effectiveness, ensuring that data centers and other computing resources minimize waste, conserve energy and contribute to open-source projects that will enhance commercial and residential energy use.

The Smart Energy Education Scholarship is funded by CPS Energy and Itron, Inc., and managed by the San Antonio Area Foundation.