Essay by Langdan Zhu

Langdan Zhu of Anaheim won Orange County Mensa’s $2000 Larry Grannis Memorial Scholarship.

Environmental science had been my calling, and in the summer of 2020, it was getting stronger. While staying home under COVID, I often read in the news that due to a reduction in human activity, pollution was lessened, air quality was improved, and some magnificent animals re-emerged. This reminded me that everything is connected, and we can achieve harmony with nature through environmental science.

In August 2020, I was elected president of Troy High School’s Environment Club because of my continued involvement in the club since freshman year. Every two weeks, I host an online Kahoot! competition for the club. I write sets of problems beforehand to prepare for the competition. That prompts me to do lots of reading on the subject. I also encourage club members to contribute online articles on environmental subjects. To edit these articles, I need to read each article a couple of times, research the topic, and discuss the changes to be made with the author before we publish it on the website. In short, I am learning environmental science by leading, writing, editing and researching.

In addition to the environmental club, I attended the 2021 COSMOS summer program to further reinforce my passion for environmental science. I was in the cluster exploring animals in the ocean and on land. We studied a variety of life forms, ranging from the cetaceans that roam the deep oceans to the hawks that soar in the sky. Nature never seemed so vivid. I came to understand that the lizard tails I found in my yard were the remains of the meal of a Striped Racer snake, that the calls of the bird that woke me in the mornings were that of a lesser goldfinch, and that dolphins can somehow shed and regrow their skin every two hours! I loved every moment of it: from the necropsy of a sea lion pup to the quiet moments of observing a bushtit who finally came to rest in a tree.

It is up to us to protect all these beautiful creatures. And I want to help.

My goal for the future is clear: I want to solve problems with the environment through scientific research. Therefore, I want to learn, practice, promote and breathe environment science.

Solving problems in environmental science requires an interdisciplinary approach. To identify, define and analyze problems, I need to equip myself with qualitative and quantitative tools. Therefore, I will study courses in applied mathematics, computer science and statistics besides environmental science. Any environment-related problem is always complex and multifaceted. To get the “big picture” and understand its root cause, I plan to get training in biology, geology, chemistry, economics, and business.

A solution may call for engineering approaches. Thus, I will also take some engineering classes.

Finally, to have the solution accepted and applied by the society, I need to understand public policy, international and public affairs, and behavioral decision sciences. Exposure to courses in these fields is desirable.

After college, I would like to pursue a PhD in related fields. Eventually I want to become a professor, running a lab and working with fellow like-minded peers to solve environmental issues together through innovation. Throughout my academic and professional years, I will continue to engage the public and increase the awareness of the environmental crisis.



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