When Yaguang Zheng, Ph.D., RN, was a teenager growing up in China, she spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who suffered from chronic heart failure. That experience—and her concern for her grandmother’s health—led her to the nursing profession. “I wanted to help people recover from their suffering,” she says.

While she was studying for a master’s degree at the Chinese PLA Postgraduate Medical School, Zheng researched interventions to help patients decrease their glucose levels and became interested in using mobile technology to study the problem of obesity. Drawn to the United States because the technology here was more advanced than it was in China at the time, she received a doctoral degree from the University of Pittsburgh. 

In her dissertation research, she studied patients who weighed themselves every day on a Wi-Fi-enabled scale that made it possible for both participants and researchers to access the data in real time. She found that patients who weighed themselves every day had better weight-loss outcomes than those who used the scale sporadically. “It helps people to get feedback and information for their real situation in their real environment,” she says. “The data can help participants increase their awareness of their patterns and how these patterns factor into their weight change.”

Zheng comes to Boston College as a tenure-track assistant professor. She plans to further her research, studying behavior and why some people did well with the daily weight tracking and others did not. She teaches pathophysiology, and creates a vibrant classroom in which her students are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. 

—Patti Hartigan, photograph by Lee Pellegrini