As alumni of Virginia Tech, we take great pride in the accomplishments of our graduates. We highlight one of our exceptional alumni who is making waves in the field of environmental policy.

Since graduating in 2019 from our Ph.D. program, Weizhe Weng has worked as an assistant professor in economics and data analytics for SUNY Geneseo and now serves as an assistant professor at the University of Florida.

Her research program focuses on addressing water issues, and the use of economic and interdisciplinary frameworks to provide a foundation for science-based policymaking. Weng’s research explores policy questions related to water pollution, air pollution, land use, agricultural production, and outdoor recreation, using modern empirical, optimization, and integrated assessment modeling methods. The work evaluates potential policy outcomes and offers valuable insights for policymakers.

“One of my favorite parts of my job is conducting research and connecting with stakeholders and policymakers addressing water issues.” 

Why did you get interested in water issues?

“Growing up in China, I was surrounded by eight beautiful lakes, and observing the water levels and changes in them sparked my interest in environmental issues.”

Weng's passion for the environment deepened during her undergraduate studies. She had the opportunity to learn from a professor who showed her the connection between economics and its impact on the environment.

Weng earned her bachelor’s in 2011 from Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics and her master’s in international business, trade, and commerce from Jinan University in 2014. 

You hold a research and extension appointment. Tell us about your research and Extension efforts. 

“My goals for research and Extension are centered around water resources and involve effectively increasing awareness and knowledge of the social value of water, efficient water use, conservation practices, and environmental stewardship. I provide training to stakeholders through workshops, webinars, reports, technical bulletins, infographics, etc.”

“My current research and Extension projects are focused on estimating the economic benefits of water quality improvement, building a cost-effective nutrient management program, and taking a science-based approach to transform agri-food systems towards green and climate-resilient practices. These initiatives are crucial for ensuring the sustainability and long-term health of our environment.”

What’s your fondest memory about your time in the Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics?

“Working on a Ph.D. at Virginia Tech was the best decision. I enjoyed every moment.” 

Weng made great connections with peers and faculty whom she still stays in touch with today. 

“The faculty are well-established scholars who, more importantly, value student professional development and are willing to assist in every aspect. During my time at Virginia Tech, I learned not only how to conduct research, teach, and develop Extension projects but also how to profoundly engage with my own professional development. These lessons have proven invaluable, aiding me significantly in my career post-graduation."

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?

“Be open-minded. Be engaged.”

By Melissa Vidmar