Zeren Zhima is breaking stereotypes as a Tibetan woman in the field of modern science. Instead of conforming to traditional roles such as weaving or folk dancing, she spends her days typing computer code and processing mass data from a satellite over 500 kilometers away.
Despite her humble beginnings in the remote Tibetan countryside of Southwest China’s Sichuan province, Zeren Zhima is now at the forefront of cutting-edge science, specializing in the physics of Earth and space. As the chief designer of the application system for China’s first seismo-electromagnetic satellite, Zhangheng-1, which has been in service for five years, she has provided a wealth of scientific data on earthquakes around the globe.
The satellite is named after the inventor of an ancient Chinese seismograph and captures electromagnetic waves generated by rock or tectonic plate movements deep below the ground. By analyzing this data, scientists can trace the electromagnetic circumstances of previous ruptures and identify natural laws that will eventually help forecast impending quakes.
Although some countries have launched similar satellites before, they have all been retired from service, making the use of space satellites to measure the Earth’s surface shaking a challenging feat. Zeren Zhima notes that it may take years before scientists can realize the goal of predicting earthquakes.
Zeren Zhima’s work at the National Institute of Natural Hazards is crucial in understanding the physics of Earth and space. Her work involves complex diagrams and bell curves displayed on screen, and she spends hours every day typing computer code and processing mass data from the satellite. She is a role model for young women, especially those from minority groups, who aspire to break into the field of science.
Despite the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field, Zeren Zhima has excelled in her work and is a true trailblazer. She believes that there are no limits to what one can achieve with hard work and dedication, and hopes that more women from minority groups will follow in her footsteps.
Zeren Zhima’s story shows that women can succeed in any field they choose, even if it is not traditionally associated with their gender or ethnicity. With her groundbreaking work in the field of modern science, she is challenging stereotypes and paving the way for future generations of women to succeed in this exciting and innovative field.
Zeren Zhima’s contribution to the field of earthquake prediction and understanding the physics of Earth and space is invaluable. Her work provides valuable insights that can help protect people from natural disasters and save lives.
Zeren Zhima’s passion for science and dedication to her work is truly inspiring. Her story shows that anyone can achieve their dreams, no matter where they come from or what obstacles they face. With her hard work and perseverance, she is making a difference in the world of science and breaking down barriers for women in the field.
Zeren Zhima’s desire to perform good deeds was instilled in her from a young age. Born in 1976 in the Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Sichuan, she grew up in a rural family where women were typically relegated to farm work. However, her parents had bigger plans for their daughters and encouraged them to study hard and leave the countryside. Her father, a voluntary schoolteacher, made sure that Zeren Zhima and her sister received a good education.
Her hard work paid off when she scored the highest marks in her county’s school graduation exams and was admitted to a college in Beijing to specialize in disaster prevention technology. Growing up in an area prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and landslides, Zeren Zhima was keen to help people when they were in trouble. She believed that pursuing studies in disaster prevention was a way to put this idea into practice, which could benefit many people.
Adapting to modern urban life was not easy for Zeren Zhima, who came from a simple rural environment. She struggled with using a telephone and taking the subway during her early years in Beijing. Additionally, she had dyslexia and did not speak Mandarin very well, which meant she had to work twice as hard as her peers to succeed.
Despite these challenges, Zeren Zhima persevered, practicing Mandarin pronunciation by reading newspapers aloud for hours and immersing herself in piles of tapes and books to hone her English listening and speaking skills. Her hard work paid off when she became a straight-A student after two years.
In 1999, Zeren Zhima pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Guizhou Normal University in Southwest China. At that time, computer science was a popular subject due to the rise of the internet. Although she received job offers for web engineering positions from several foreign companies, she turned them down to study geophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Zeren Zhima’s original aspiration to devote her life to the welfare of others kept her motivated, despite the heavy workload at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She knew that studying geophysics was the key to making a difference in people’s lives, particularly those living in areas prone to natural disasters.
Zeren Zhima’s determination paid off when she became the chief designer of the application system for China’s first seismo-electromagnetic satellite, Zhangheng-1, while working at the National Institute of Natural Hazards. Although it is challenging to use a space satellite to measure the shaking of the Earth’s surface, the satellite has provided a large amount of scientific data on earthquakes worldwide, which has helped scientists trace the electromagnetic circumstances of previous ruptures and identify natural laws that could eventually help forecast impending quakes.
Despite her success, Zeren Zhima remains humble, giving credit to her parents and teachers for instilling in her the desire to help others. She is proud of her Tibetan heritage and hopes to inspire more young people from ethnic minorities to pursue careers in science.
Zeren Zhima’s story is a testament to the power of hard work, perseverance, and the desire to make a positive impact in the world. She defied the stereotypes associated with Tibetan women and forged a path in a field traditionally dominated by men. Her achievements serve as an inspiration to women and minorities everywhere, proving that anyone can achieve their dreams with determination and hard work.
After obtaining her master’s degree in 2005, Zeren Zhima secured a job at the Institute of Earthquake Forecasting of the China Earthquake Administration. In 2008, when an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan county in Sichuan, the Zhangheng-1 project, which was still in development, was put on hold. However, the disaster had renewed the urgency to move the project forward.
In 2009, Zeren Zhima took on two simultaneous challenges: she became a key member of the Zhangheng-1 research project and gave birth to her daughter. Balancing motherhood with her scientific duties was a difficult task, but she was able to manage it with the support of her family, particularly her mother-in-law who helped with childcare.
Recognizing the need for an interdisciplinary background, Zeren Zhima applied for doctoral studies in astrophysics. Despite juggling motherhood and in-depth research, she persisted and finally earned her PhD from Beihang University in 2014 on her third attempt. In her senior thesis, she expressed her gratitude to her parents-in-law, husband, and daughter for their unwavering support throughout her academic journey.
After five years of development, the Zhangheng-1 satellite was launched in February 2018. Since its launch, it has achieved numerous feats, including acquiring global electromagnetic field data, improving weather event monitoring, and aiding earthquake forecasting research.
Zeren Zhima’s contributions to the Zhangheng-1 project have been invaluable. As the chief designer of the satellite’s application system, she has played a pivotal role in enabling the satellite to capture and analyze electromagnetic signals generated by rock or tectonic plate movements deep below the earth’s surface. Through this data, scientists can study the electromagnetic circumstances of previous ruptures and predict impending quakes, which could ultimately save lives and reduce the destruction caused by earthquakes.
Zeren Zhima’s scientific achievements are all the more remarkable given her humble origins in the rural areas of Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Sichuan. Her parents, determined to provide their daughters with opportunities beyond farming, instilled in her a desire to help others. Her dedication to disaster prevention and reduction, stemming from this upbringing, has made her a valuable asset to China’s scientific community.
Her success in overcoming challenges such as dyslexia and a lack of Mandarin proficiency to pursue her academic dreams, all while raising a family, serves as an inspiration to many. Zeren Zhima’s accomplishments are a testament to the power of perseverance, hard work, and a determination to make a difference in the world.
Zeren Zhima’s team is currently in the planning stages for the second Zhangheng satellite, which will eventually be joined by additional satellites to form a constellation. Despite the importance of their work, Zeren Zhima emphasizes that scientific research must remain practical and realistic. She believes that forecasting earthquakes is a fundamental aspect of research, but also one that requires patience and persistence, rather than seeking quick results.
The Wenchuan earthquake, which occurred on May 12, 2008, has left a lasting impact on Zeren Zhima’s work. Each year on May 12, National Disaster Prevention and Reduction Day is observed, serving as a reminder of the importance of predicting and preventing future disasters. The number 512, the room number of Zeren Zhima’s office, was chosen by the project’s previous leader and now serves as a constant reminder of her mission.
As International Women’s Day was celebrated recently, Zeren Zhima’s work and accomplishments have received attention as an example of the important contributions women make in the modern world. When asked about the reasons for her success, Zeren Zhima says that she keeps her focus on surpassing her previous achievements and reaching her full potential.
She is grateful for her parents’ guidance in valuing the wellbeing of others and is proud to have a science career that protects people’s lives and safety.