Claire Zhang

Claire Zhang graduated from Holy Names Academy in Seattle, Washington. At Columbia, she plans to major in computer science while also exploring psychology and environmental science.

At the Human Interaction with Nature and Technological Systems (HINTS) Lab at the University of Washington, Claire assisted with the development of Nostos AI, an AI model which combines computer vision, machine learning, and deep neural networks. Nostos AI seeks to quantify the potential for human-nature interactions within an urban environment to increase awareness of and appreciation for nature by evaluating images of existing and potential urban nature designs. Claire studied and assessed urban ecological design case studies based on biophilic design principles, potential for meaningful nature interactions, and other factors in major cities such as Seoul, Beijing, and Los Angeles. She also collected image data through Panoramic Google Maps and Google StreetView, which was utilized to train the AI model. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she worked on a study partnered with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that examined the impact of Covid-19 and other social inequities on the frequency and quality of urban nature interactions and provided guidance to Washington park management on how to better serve underrepresented populations.

Claire is dedicated to community service, especially in roles involving outreach and education. In high school, she volunteered for four years at the Seattle Aquarium as a Youth Ocean Advocate, engaging visitors in conversation to further the aquarium’s mission of inspiring marine conservation. In addition to volunteering at the aquarium itself, Claire has been active in field work such as local beach cleanups, tree planting for riparian ecosystem restoration, and zooplankton sample collection in the Puget Sound. Claire was also a member of the L-pod leadership team for Youth Ocean Advocates, assisting the Seattle Aquarium with recruiting, training, and onboarding of new high school volunteers. In this role, she provided specialized training for other high school volunteers as part of the aquarium’s college accreditation program with the University of Washington. After taking AP Computer Science A in tenth grade, Claire also began volunteering with Women Advancing Tomorrow’s Technologists (WATT), a Washington state nonprofit founded by alumni of her high school, where she taught computer science classes to female students in Seattle-area elementary and middle schools. After becoming the WATT Core Team Leader, Claire developed new curricula for WATT that emphasized the development of analytical thinking and practical coding skills. She further wrote and was awarded grants from the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s AspireIT program to purchase loaner laptops for student use during and after the pandemic, when schools were closed.

In Columbia Engineering, Claire looks forward to continuing her work with research, computer science, and education. She is particularly interested in areas of computer science like artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

In her free time, Claire enjoys hiking and watching horror movies (though not concurrently).