Zhenyu (Zach) Zhang received his undergraduate degree in Sociology from Xi’an Jiaotong University in Xi’an, China. In 2018, he graduated from Boston University, where he studied mental health counseling and behavioral medicine. He is primarily interested in childhood trauma and adversity, with the goal of understanding how these experiences might shape psychopathology and risky behavior.
Zach is currently a fifth-year student in Penn State’s Clinical Psychology doctoral program, where he works with Dr. Amy Marshall. As a T32 predoctoral fellow with Creating the Next Generation of Scholars in Child Maltreatment Science, he is also mentored by Drs. Chad Shenk, Lorah Dorn, and Christopher Engeland. Zach was drawn to Penn State by the opportunity to conduct research that informs prevention, treatment, and policy for individuals affected by trauma and adversity. Zach is interested in examining multiple dimensions of environmental challenges like trauma, investigating the mechanisms that link these challenges to psychopathology, high-risk behaviors, and poor health, as well as understanding how contextual, cultural, and social factors shape this link. Zach is currently conducting his dissertation research, where he hopes to integrate the diverse fields of research that investigate trauma and adversity by focusing on subjective experiences of potentially traumatic and other adverse events. He aims to address three questions: 1) how are individuals experiencing trauma and adversity? 2) what may contribute to the variations of individual experiences of those traumatic and adverse events? And 3) why are individuals’ experiences important? Outside of his dissertation research, Zach is also interested in examining biological aging, including pubertal development and DNA methylation, as potential mechanisms linking trauma to psychopathology.
Zach plans to pursue an academic position at a university after graduation, where he can conduct translational research using multi-level large-scale data while using different methods to identify risk and protective factors that generalize across diverse populations. He hopes that his research program will have meaningful implications for the development of effective, accessible, and timely interventions for affected populations.