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A headshot of Jieni Zhou in front of a mural featuring Rameses the Ram and other UNC landmarks.
Fifth-year psychology Ph.D. student Jieni Zhou is an expert in how positive experiences in romantic relationships impact our well-being.

Zhou, who is originally from Fuzhou, China, was inspired to study positive emotions and social relationships while working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Emotions and Family Relationships Lab at Bryn Mawr College. In that job, she analyzed couples’ interactions to study the emotional dynamics between partners.

“I’m intrigued by how each evanescent moment of emotions — especially the positive ones — can have implications for long-term relationship outcomes,” she says.

Her on-going passion for social psychology comes from the “increasing research evidence to support that social relationships are vital to our mental and physical well-being, and positive emotions are crucial building blocks for flourishing relationships.” The “brilliant people and excellent instructors” in UNC’s psychology and neuroscience department led her to becoming a Tar Heel.

At Carolina, Zhou names her advisor Barbara Fredrickson, positive emotion expert and Kenan Distinguished Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience, as a guiding force in her personal and professional life.

“Our relationship is multi-faceted. She is a role model who I admire, a lab family member who I can turn to for support during difficult times and a mentor who I learn a lot from about research, teaching and life wisdom.”

A traveler and photographer in her free time, Zhou emphasizes the importance of savoring “micro-moments of positivity.” In Chapel Hill, you can find her doing this at her favorite coffee shop, Coco Espresso, with a blueberry scone latte in hand.

By Jess Abel ’19

UNC-Chapel Hill celebrates Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week April 3-7. Stay tuned for stories on our website about graduate students in the College.

This feature originally appeared as part of the ongoing series, College Up Close.

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