Iowis Zhu is leaving the University of Maryland with a double degree in biochemistry and biological sciences, aspirations of becoming a leader in medical research, and the accolades of the campus’ scientific community.
He is, quite simply, a “force of nature,” says Associate Professor Jason D. Kahn, who supervised Zhu in his Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry lab.
“Iowis is an intellectual powerhouse,” Kahn says. “He gets more done than any other student I’ve ever met, and he is a team player and leader who improves the performance of all those around him.”
Zhu came to College Park from Howard County with a Banneker/Key scholarship, the most prestigious one that UMD awards to incoming students, and branched into all areas of scientific research, interning at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, volunteering at Howard County General Hospital and serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant. A student in the Honors College’s Integrated Life Sciences Program, he won a renowned Goldwater Scholarship and was inducted into the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa.
But he is most proud of creating and leading the UMD International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, which competes internationally on synthetic biology projects and promotes undergraduate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) research. Zhu led 25 researchers, organized conferences and even helped fundraise, as the team won two gold medals at the iGEM Global Jamboree.
“I was able to learn a lot through firsthand experience—how to be a good leader, how to solve conflicts, how to allocate resources to achieve our long-term goals,” he says. “It’s great fun, too.”
Zhu also studied abroad in India and Japan, observing how communities around the world address health challenges. Donna Howard, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, taught Zhu during a course in India and was struck by not only his intelligence, but also his character.
“He has a quiet and mature demeanor but a passion and determination that are striking and truly inspirational,” she says. “His sincerity and warmth are wonderful attributes that complement the seriousness with which he pursues an understanding of the social sciences, biologic systems and clinical care.”
He will pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree in the University of California, San Francisco Medical Scientist Training Program so he can continue to research in the lab and bring innovations to patients.
“You have to be able to connect your work with what’s going on in the real world,” he says.
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Writer: Liam Farrell
About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.