Alena Zhang


Austin, TX

Academic Interests

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Economics

Fun Fact

I almost went to the same high school that High School Musical was shot at, but, to my great disappointment, I ended up moving away.

My interest in computer science originated from an unfortunate incident involving my dad’s laptop, a clumsy 9-year-old’s hand, and a cup of water. That day, as my dad exasperatedly disassembled his soaked laptop to survey the damage I made, I took my first glimpse at the inside of a computer and was instantly blown away. I was captivated by the intricacy of each component and how the complex interplay between these components was capable of giving the computer its many functions. I bombarded my dad with question after question, and the more I began to understand, the more I wanted to know. My curiosity soon blossomed into a passion as I began to learn more about computer science. 

To me, the most fascinating aspect of computer science is its broad applicability to nearly every field of study. The idea that a few lines of code have the potential to revolutionize an entire industry is mind-blowing. In high school, I got the opportunity to explore the interdisciplinary nature of computer science as a NASA SEES intern. At this internship combining computer science with earth science, I coded in Python to generate plots of satellite data for regions that experienced natural disasters. Through analyzing the graphs, I formulated solutions to improve the satellite’s ability to provide real-time assessments of natural disasters. 

Computer science is also intricately linked with many of my passions, one of them being economics. I am fascinated by the idea that through the lens of economics, I can take a glimpse into the decision-making mechanisms ingrained within our society. To further understand the intersection between these two disciplines, I conducted research on the application of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in the current banking systems. Through this experience, I have become more excited to explore careers in financial technology as well as investigate topics currently at the forefront of technological innovation. 

At Duke, I am a member of Business Oriented Women, Duke Undergraduate Research Society, Women in Tech, and the Asian Student Association. Outside of class, I love baking, going on food tours, ice skating, and playing the flute!

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

In addition to the myriad of invaluable resources and mentors that SPIRE provides, I love the strong sense of community that SPIRE fosters. SPIRE Fellows are united by our common passions and drive for success, yet we are each unique in the perspectives we bring and the backgrounds we come from. By being a part of such an empowering and open-minded network, I can develop both personally and professionally. During my next few years at Duke, I am excited to explore all that SPIRE has to offer, and I also hope to contribute my efforts towards building an even more supportive and inclusive SPIRE community.

Alena Zhang.
Alena Zhang