SIGS Graduate Stories | Winnie Peiyuan Liu: Forging new paths

Editor’s Note:

As our 2023 graduates start a new chapter in their lives, they share with us how SIGS has shaped them.  

In this installment of SIGS Graduate Stories, Winnie Peiyuan Liu, a master’s graduate in Environmental Science and New Energy Technology and PhD graduate in Environmental Science and Engineering from Liaoning Province, shares her experiences interning at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and being a cross-disciplinary researcher.

Pursuing her international internship dreams

Since her time as an undergraduate student, Winnie Peiyuan Liu has had a deep interest in studying and working at international organizations. In March 2022, UNICEF's Public Partnership Division in New York was looking for a student intern from Tsinghua University majoring in public administration. Winnie applied despite her lack of background in public administration. “I might as well give it a shot!” A phrase she repeated several times throughout her interview.

Unfortunately, Winnie’s application was ultimately rejected. However, the staff member at Tsinghua communicating with UNICEF, who had never met Winnie, was so impressed by her zeal that he asked UNICEF to consider Winnie for an internship in another division at UNICEF. That’s how Winnie’s internship as part of the Climate, Energy, Environment, and Disaster Risk Reduction team at UNICEF began.

Winnie’s willingness to push outside of her comfort and give things “a shot” did not end when she landed the internship. In New York, she invited colleagues and supervisors from her team to coffee chats. She spent time emailing colleagues from other departments, asking them to coffee chats to get to know them better and learn more about their work at UNICEF. Over five months, she was able to get to know and learn from over thirty professionals in the field.

In addition to expanding her international network, Winnie also participated in the revising and updating of the policy framework Climate Landscape Analysis for Children (CLAC), which guides country and regional offices in the planning and advocacy of programs related to climate change and disaster risk resilience.

To further deepen her experience, she convinced her supervisor to nominate her to attend the UN’s Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Egypt, becoming the only intern from UNICEF’s delegation at the conference.

Winnie at COP 27 as part of the UNICEF delegation

Reflecting on her experience at UNICEF, Winnie said, “In addition to opportunities to explore career possibilities, I was also able to improve my business English and teamwork skills, all important in working for international organizations. Additionally, I developed a network and gained wisdom from my colleague’s perspectives and life stories.”

Winnie as visiting researcher at UC Berkeley

In addition to her internship at UNICEF, during her time at SIGS, Winnie also spent one year at UC Berkeley as a visiting researcher, collaborating with the Biological Systems and Engineering Division of Lawrence National Laboratory, and participated in a social practice in Brazil and the 3rd China Israel Innovation Forum.

Winnie during a summer social practice in Brazil


Winnie hosting the 3rd China Israel Innovation Forum gala

Bringing international opportunities to future students

The connections and skills Winnie gained during her internship at UNICEF motivated her to share the opportunity with others. After returning to SIGS, she proposed a collaboration between the school and UNICEF to the Career Development Center. Winnie’s initiative coupled with the support of the school created The Tsinghua University International Organization Talent Project launched in April of this year, which will offer internships at UNICEF to SIGS students.

“I am proud that I was able to do my part for international exchange and cooperation at Tsinghua and SIGS,” Winnie said.

Expanding the boundaries of interdisciplinary research

Winnie’s undergraduate major was economics and management. For her graduate studies, she decided to challenge herself once again and chose environmental science, a field relatively new to her that she was interested in.

Winnie's doctoral research focused on assessing the environmental impact, efficacy, associated costs, and public acceptance of nanopesticides, which are essential for sustainable agricultural development and global food security. This research required integrating multiple disciplines such as environmental science, economics, chemistry, and biology. For challenge-loving Winnie, this was a great chance to learn and grow.  

Winnie (fifth from left) at her doctoral dissertation defense with labmates and co-advisor Huang Yuxiong (fifth from right)

“She turns disadvantages into advantages and stress into motivation,” said Winne’s co-advisor Associate Professor Huang Yuxiong. “As her advisor, I have witnessed her growth on the academic path, gaining not only fruitful international experiences, but also a good understanding of fundamental theory and expertise knowledge, with mature scientific research ability and presentation skills.

Winnie’s success in interdisciplinary research was not possible without her advisor’s support and guidance. Winnie’s co-advisor Prof. Huang encouraged her to continually clarify her goals. Winnie also received both academic and moral support from her advisor Professor Slav W. Hermanowicz. “Whether it's something happy or sad, whether it's academic or life, including family, I talked and shared with him,” said Winnie.

Winnie (left) with advisor Professor Slav W. Hermanowicz

Continuing to expand her horizons, Winnie will bring her innovative thinking cultivated at SIGS to work in the Fuzhou government, using what she has learned to serve citizens there.


Reported by Ye Sijia

Written by Alena Shish

Edited by Yuan Yang

Photos provided by interviewee