Jieni Zhou

Jieni Zhou is a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She studies how shared positive experiences in romantic relationships contribute to relationship quality and physical health outcomes.

Jieni Zhouphoto by Alyssa LaFaro
July 22nd, 2020

Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A: I grew up in China, where English was one of the most important subjects in school along with math and Chinese literature. As a child, English was my favorite subject, and I was good at it. When I watched international news, I always admired diplomats who represented their own countries with a graceful, self-possessed manner.

Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

A: I am a believer in mind-body connections having by influenced by Chinese medicine. I’ve always been intrigued by ideas about how the energy of the body varies with each individuals’ emotions and temperament and eventually contributes to symptoms. When I talked to my doctor in China about what I studied in the U.S., he encouraged me to become a psychologist, using scientific methods to help people understand the connections between mind and body.

“We are doctors who can only treat people’s physical symptoms for the short-term,” he said. “These symptoms are highly impacted by daily experiences such as emotions and stress, which are out of our control. Health can only be achieved by a life-long exercise of the mind and the body together.” His words inspired me to pursue psychology as my field of study to better our understanding of human minds and how we can help other people adopt a healthier lifestyle from the inside out.

Jieni Zhou and her mom

Zhou (right) and her mom learn about tea ceremonies at a traditional tea house in China.

Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

A: I am an ambitious multitasker, so it’s hard for me to let go of any opportunity offered by my mentor. Recently, I was able to choose one or two projects to focus on for a period of time and finish them one-by-one. I figured out a way to do this by checking in with myself every time I work on a specific project. Is this a project that brings me the necessary skills I want to add to my repertoire? Do I feel unconditionally rewarded while working on this project? Those two questions help me identify the ones that I care about for my research and skills.

Q: Describe your research in 5 words.

A: Love can heal the body.

Q: What are your passions outside of research?

A: Traveling and photography bring me serenity and mindfulness, drawing me into present moments and allowing me to savor the feelings I experience. In addition, traveling expands my perspectives on how people in different places interact with each other. Photography motivates me to think about how to express myself.

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