Zining Chen

Hometown: Chengdu, Sichuan, China
College/University Attending: Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business
Year In School When Selected: Second Year
Program of Study: Double Major: Economics, Statistics


Originally from Chengdu, the birthplace of hotpot, I moved to the U.S. during 8th grade and attended high school in Long Island, New York. My journey in finance began in high school with my involvement in DECA, a finance competition club, where I often found myself as one of the few, if not the only, women in the room. This underrepresentation sparked a deep-seated feeling of isolation, which I later recognized as a call to action—not just for myself but for others who shared my experience. Driven by this realization, I committed myself to fostering greater female representation in finance. At Carnegie Mellon University, I am involved in Smart Women Securities as the Chief Research officer, helping guide women interested in finance by leading weekly workshops and in Students Using Data Science for Social Good, assisting the Women’s Shelter of Pittsburgh with data analysis and database migration.

A fun fact about me? I was an avid lacrosse player throughout high school. I've recently taken up scuba diving and am excited about obtaining my Open Water Diver certification this summer!

Summary of New Ideas proposal:

I proposed Mind the Gap, a FemTech initiative that tackles the pressing issue of the gender data gap in Al and machine learning algorithms. Originating from a data analysis project at Pittsburgh's women's shelter and fueled by academic insights, this idea is dedicated to using synthetic data to amplify the representation of women.

The core mission is to reduce biases prevalent in current datasets, thereby ensuring the development of Al models that are not only more precise but also equitable. This approach is designed to counteract gender polarization from the foundation, impacting a range of societal sectors and offering a more cost-efficient solution compared to traditional data-gathering techniques. Mind the Gap hopes to be a part of the digital revolution, striving to bridge the gender data gap and championing a future marked by inclusivity.

What does the New Ideas Competition mean to you?

The competition represented an extraordinary chance for me, not only to present my idea but also to immerse myself in an environment filled with innovation. This competition provided a platform where I could engage with like-minded peers from universities across the U.S.—each passionate and eager to tell their story and make a positive impact. Moreover, the feedback that I received from professionals was invaluable, as it helped refine my approach and understand the next steps.

Our time at Duke also included a thorough tour of the university. I was introduced to Duke's school culture, including the tenting tradition, and dined at Duke's top-ranked dining hall and local restaurants!

Advice for new applicants:

Pursue an idea that holds personal significance for you, an idea that addresses a problem you genuinely care about. A statement that really resonated with me during my time at Duke was when a mentor emphasized, “We invest in people.” The initial draw to your idea often stems from who you are and why this matter is important to you, then the idea itself.

Moreover, in my interactions with other founders and listening to their journeys, I observed a common theme: they could navigate challenges and exhibit resilience because their projects held deep personal significance. Their dedication was not just to the innovation itself but to the impact it aimed to create, which made me realize the vital connection between personal passion and entrepreneurial resilience.