Iryna Zenyuk has two huge goals in life: To be a chess champion and to help the environment. She has a good start on her chess goal, ranking as one of the top 10 women players in the U.S. And after receiving a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University last year, Iryna is well on her way to helping develop ways to make renewable energy more prevalent.
Iryna is currently is a postdoctorate fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researching electrochemical energy conversion devices. Her near-term goal is to get a tenure-track faculty position at a lead research university where she will be able to realize her passion for renewable energy research and teaching.
In August 2013 Iryna was part of a national team competing in a USA - China match hosted in Ningbo, China. Up until recently Iryna had been a Friday weekly columnist for chess.com, writing more than 250 articles for amateur chess players over the span of last five years.
She defines her interests this way: Chess is her love; it's fun. But mechanical engineering will give her the means to give back to society.
Iryna will undoubtably fight hard for her passions, as she is used to that overcoming long odds and adversity. Iryna's father died when she was 8 and her mother moved to the U.S., leaving her and her brother in the Ukraine alone until Iryna could join her 6 years later. "It taught me to be independent," she says without a trace of bitterness.
Other interests play a big role in Iryna's life too. Although only 5 feet 4, she was able to play volleyball in college. Furthermore, she is friends with many of her chess competitors. "I have a lot of chess friends," Iryna said. "We do the normal stuff: hang out, go to restaurants ... I don't call myself solitary."