Obituary: Zishan (Simoner) Zhao, Arts & Sciences student, 19


Zishan (Simoner) Zhao, a rising junior in the College of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Saturday, June 2, 2018, from injuries after being hit by a car while attempting to cross a street in Wilmington, N.C. He was 19.

Zhao, from Guangdong, Longgang District in Shenzhen, China, was majoring in biochemistry in the Department of Biology, with a minor in writing.

Laura Sandoval-Sweeney, Zhao’s residential college director on the South 40, said Zhao possessed an openness and “sweet energy.”

“Sometimes it can take time for international students to become part of university life, but not Simoner,” said Sandoval-Sweeney, who now works as a care manager for WashU Cares. “From the beginning, he always was willing to participate and was never afraid to ask questions. As an international student, he never let the language barrier stand in his way.”

Kathy Steiner-Lang, director of the Office for International Students and Scholars and Zhao’s four-year academic adviser, said Zhao brought that same enthusiasm to his writing, one of Zhao’s true passions.

“He had a very creative mind and was writing a novel in English,” Steiner-Lang said. “What really impressed me about Simoner was that he was interested in such a range of  things. Simoner was just as curious about fiction writing and German as he was about biochemistry.”

Indeed, Zhao was a gifted scientist, said his academic adviser, Himadri B. Pakrasi, the Myron and Sonya Glassberg/Albert and Blanche Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor and the director of the International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability.

“He was passionate about development of sustainable green energy production and making the world better,” Pakrasi said.

Zhao is survived by his parents, Yao Zhao and Juan Chu. While they mourn the loss of their son, they urged Zhao’s fellow students to be safe when traveling, taking precautions so they do not put themselves in harm’s way.

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