From her interest in textiles and sustainability to her advocacy for public health and social justice, fourth-year materials science and engineering major Annie Wang’s interests cross paths and drive her to make a difference at UC Davis and in the world.
Wang came to college as an international relations major, but decided to change her path after watching a documentary about the fast fashion industry’s social and environmental impact.
“It really struck me because whenever I’d go shopping, I’d think something was such a great deal, but never really thought about who’s paying for it on the other end,” she said.
This led her to an interest in textiles, wondering how she could help make the industry more environmentally-friendly from the materials upward. She changed her major to materials science and engineering to focus on this area while gaining a broader background to contribute to a more sustainable world in multiple ways.
“I like understanding how and why materials behave from their structure and how we manufacture them, and then how we can make them more sustainable,” she said.
While learning about materials in class, Wang has become a force for change on campus and in the community. She joined Aggie Reuse, the campus’ thrift store, where she helped produce videos that shared tips on environmentally conscious habits and worked her way up to assistant director.
She also co-founded the UC Davis chapter of PERIOD, an organization that destigmatizes and improves access to menstrual hygiene through education, service and advocacy. The group hosts educational workshops and coordinates drives for the ASUCD Pantry, local shelters and nonprofit organizations. Striving for long-term change, Wang and her team talk to administrators and state legislators about introducing policies to provide free menstrual products in campus bathrooms at UC Davis and across California.
Her interests merged when she took, “BioDesign Theory and Practice” (DES 128/BIM 189). Her team chose to explore prototyping a material for a biodegradable diaper, where she was able to apply her materials science knowledge to a problem that impacts both the environment and public health.
“Hygiene products like diapers and tampons are important for people of all ages and genders, but current disposable products contain a lot of plastic,” she explained. “They not only contribute to landfill waste, but there is also a lack of transparency around additive ingredients, so developing sustainable and cost-effective materials is important to ensuring the accessibility and health of users and the environment.”
After Wang graduates this spring, she plans to look for a job related to sustainability, preferably focusing on textiles and fibers. As she prepares for her next steps, she hopes to keep a global perspective in mind to help as many people as she can through her work in and out of engineering.
“I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of things that are interdisciplinary, and I think that’s definitely something I’m definitely going to take away in the future—seek input from all different fields when you’re trying to solve a problem,” she said.