Career Champion Spotlight: Zongjie Wang

Zongjie Wang, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She received her Ph.D. training through a joint program provided by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at both Cornell University and Harbin Institute of Technology, and joined the University of Connecticut’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2021. Her research interests include modern power systems planning and operation, the high penetration level of variable renewable energy integration, and the electricity market, among others.

Name: Zongjie Wang

School/College: School of Engineering

Department: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Title: Assistant Professor

How long have you been a career champion?

I have been an active member of Career Champion since I joined UConn in August of 2021.

Are you involved in any of the Career Champion subcommittees?

Not at this time, but I am involved in the activities as an active advisor and member of the Career Champion Program for the past several semesters. 

What motivated you to become a Career Champion?

This idea arose from my personal experience: In my prior position as a post-doc research associate, students that I advised, lectured, or just got to know would often ask me for their career advice, resume guidance, or support in career decision-making. I am always accessible and approachable to students and have gone out of my way to provide professional development opportunities, career advice, and information to students, including undergraduate and graduate programs. As an assistant professor, the motivation for my joining and becoming an active member and advisor of the Career Champion Program is to share my experience and information with more students and get to learn more by talking with various people on campus during career conversations. I have seen how my professional and career advice has positively impacted students, especially students in underrepresented groups, on best strategizing their future career paths. Thus I would like to constantly guide and advise more students in a positive way through career counseling under the facilitation of various resources and services provided by the Career Center.

Did you have any professional or personal motivations to become a Career Champion and to integrate career into your class curriculum?

My professional motivation to become a Career Champion is to learn more resources and services available to students at UConn and better strategize my approaches to giving students career advice. My personal motivation to integrate career into my class curriculum is that it is always a great way to ensure students see the connections between the course content and their future career or continuing further education goals. 

How do you integrate career into your course and what values and/or skills do your students gain from participating in these assignments?

There are many ways for me to bring career readiness into my courses. One of the examples is to invite guest speakers. For example, local employers help make strong connections between course content and real-world practical applications. As a matter of fact, my courses are mostly related to modern power systems and renewable energy integration, which contain many theoretical formulations and high-dimensional matrices to build the power system modeling. It could be hard for students to understand and appropriately apply the right formulations to solving a complex problem in their assignments, without understanding how the problem can be practically fixed in the smart grid. To better connect the theoretical formulations with the real-world problems, I have invited local utility companies and national labs, for example, Eversource Energy, LANL, and National Grid, to give lectures on leveraging the challenges and solution techniques for solving optimal planning and operation related problems in the modern power system. Likewise, I was also invited to give a lecture on Dr. Thomas Katsouleas’ s course ECE 3001 to show how the practical transmission line works and how the transmission line capacity can be expanded with renewable energy integration. The lecture went very well with strong positive feedback received from students. I got a few emails later and some students have shown strong interest in implementing a power system related project and plan to pursue career jobs in the power system field. My professional connections have facilitated my students’ career development and allow them to gain valuable access to the power system and renewable energy integration field. 

Another example is bringing case studies into the classroom in partnership with local employers can be an excellent way for students to understand how their academic learning applies to real-world problems. These projects not only elevate UConn talent to local organizations but also help students develop project-based experiences that can add value as they apply to graduate school or full-time employment. 

Integrating career into my class curriculum is a great way to ensure students see the connections between the course content and their future career or continuing further education goals.

Zongjie Wang

Has becoming a Career Champion impacted how you give students career advice?

Since I give advice to students every day, it hasn’t changed too many to my approaches. However, joining the Career Champion Program is more than just a professional development opportunity to me, it is also changing the culture on the UConn campus to assist all of us to think more about how to better prepare our students for their future. It is instilling the responsibility that we play a critical role in helping our students be as successful as possible after they finish school. 

What advice would you give to a student who is beginning their career development journey?

First, seek out internship opportunities. Internships are always helpful for students to gain valuable, hands-on experience in their fields. Students can seek internship opportunities through professional connections from their professors. I constantly propose many available internship opportunities from either local utilities or national labs to students who are interested. This helps students, especially those who do not have a professional network. I got to know five students from my course ECE 3231 last Fall, and I have successfully advised and connected them on obtaining internship and career offers at companies including LANL, Eversource Energy, ISO-New England, and National grid.

Second, constantly develop skills and knowledge. Employers are always looking for candidates with a wide range of skills. Students can take the resources and services from UConn to expand their skills and overall knowledge. 

Third, get an early start. To ensure students get the most out of their career development, they should start looking for opportunities before they graduate. Students are recommended to talk to their advisors or other professors to seek suggestions on finding jobs that would be a good fit and relevant to the major. 

Forth, get advice from Career Center at UConn. Getting advice from the Center before students graduate can help them jump-start their careers. The Center can provide students with a wealth of information, from drafting a resume to getting a job. They can also help connect with alumni in the corresponding fields. 

Fifth, Keep the skills up-to-date. When students apply for a job or internship, they will likely be competing with other candidates. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to keep the skills up-to-date with various technology and industry trends. This will help students gain an advantage over other candidates and make them stand out to hiring managers. 

There are many other suggestions, for example, pursue the passion, always strive for excellence and stay motivated, engage in online networking, attend networking events, contact recent graduates, actively seek opportunities, and create opportunities.

By Lily Guberman
Lily Guberman