From Climate Science to Climate Solutions
A Q&A with Joyce Wang Zhan, PhD, Flood Scientist at One Concern
Climate change drives the urgency of One Concern’s work. From wildfires in California to urban flooding around the world, natural hazards are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change. Our ability to illuminate these growing environmental risks is crucial to building more resilient communities.
Joyce Wang Zhan, PhD is an expert in modeling extreme weather events in a climate change setting. At One Concern, she works on our product predicting the impact of floods. I had a chat with Joyce to learn about her work and academic background:
What do you do as a Data Scientist at One Concern?
I mostly work on the flood product, and we are currently focusing on deploying to different regions. I support all aspects of the flood prediction pipeline: the model pipeline, operating in a real-time manner, and improving and collecting the inputs to the pipeline.
How did you find out about One Concern? What makes our team unique?
I joined One Concern in March 2017 after graduating from my PhD program.
I first heard about the company through a recruiter, but learned more by talking to the founders and other people in the company. The reason I like the team is how motivated and passionate they are, and because I saw how we can do a lot to improve emergency management.
What’s your academic background? Can you tell me about your research?
I did my undergrad at Peking University and my PhD in environmental engineering at Princeton.
During my PhD, I mostly focused on researching extreme events on a global scale. So I took events such as floods, droughts, heat waves, and cold waves, and was running different models to evaluate the changes in extreme events under climate change.
Most people think that with climate change and global warming, the temperature will always go up. Well, that’s true for the mean average global temperature. But also, the extremes are more diverse. That means more cold extremes, more heat, and also more extreme precipitation events. So the distribution is becoming wider while the mean average temperature increases.
Unrelated to work, what else are you passionate about?
I really like ice skating! I haven’t done it for a while, but would love to go again. I started practicing sometime in high school, and it’s a good way to have fun once in a while.
Finally, what does ‘resilience’ mean to you?
I see resilience as going one step further than lives and livelihoods. We want to look at the structures that impact the livelihoods of a community, the magnitude of hazards, and then quantify the impact. Everything in an environment is intercorrelated, so we should be thinking about resilience like a network. Only then, we can see: What is the whole impact on people in the community?
Can you elaborate on how you view resilience as a network?
I think that’s the whole idea behind resilience. We approach it by examining the interdependency of different sectors that might otherwise be modeled separately. For example, in academia, projects would model the impact on energy sector independently from a natural hazard.
But we model all sectors together — when we look at them in a complete setting, we can better quantify the sum impact on a community.
If you enjoyed this Q&A, keep an eye out for the rest of our Data Science Showcase in the following weeks!
Want to help us build planetary-scale resilience?
Check out careers at One Concern to see how you can help.