Dr. Jingqing Zhang

Dr. Jingqing Zhang, lead scientist


I grew up in a family where my dad would cook dinner every evening. Each day, my dad would stop at a local market to pick up fresh vegetables and meat on his way home from work, which was a typical practice for Chinese families, at least back then. This tradition of daily shopping has instilled me with a passion for fresh, pure and healthy foods, and through this tradition, I gained a deep appreciation for the natural, and sometimes subtle, flavor of foods, without the need for excess salt, sugar or other seasonings. My mother could actually tell the difference between a free-range chicken and farm-raised chicken, but I never gained this seemingly supernatural ability.

Home dining was such a tradition that, if you were having dinner with friends, you would invite them to your house for a home-cooked meal rather than going out to a restaurant. Cooking and eating at home showed the best hospitality, and there is a strong sense of comfort in a home-cooked meal. While I do prefer to eat at home, I also enjoy dining out, especially with friends, which makes the occasion enjoyable and memorable and gives me an opportunity to try new types of foods or cooking styles.

Overall, I try to be conscious of what I eat, believing that having a balanced diet is the key to staying healthy and energetic. These days, there are many fad diets that go in and out of style – such as low-carb diets – and I don’t really follow them. To me, all of the key dietary constituents are good and useful, as long as they’re consumed in the right proportions. I generally eat lots of vegetables and fruits, but I also don’t constrain my meat, carbohydrate or fish intake, and my occasional indulgences include french fries, a glass of wine or a cup of sweetened bubble tea, whatever feels natural. However, I do try to stay away from processed foods, simply because I don’t really know what is in them.

I was initially drawn to Nima out of a personal need, as my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease a few years ago. I pretty much only eat gluten free both at home or at work, as it’s generally healthier anyway. In order to avoid cross-contamination, there is no food at home that contains gluten. When we go out, my husband and I usually share meals, so I always order gluten-free meals. However, if there are side dishes that come with the meal that have gluten, such as regular bread, I would eat my portion as well as his. 🙂

We frequently have found it difficult to navigate the gluten-free diet both at home and when traveling or eating out socially. I met Shireen while we were both at MIT, and after speaking with her and many other people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance in my circle of friends, I quickly realized that this problem was shared with many others. This common issue really motivated me to join Nima to develop a test that can really help millions of others! Beyond the celiac and gluten intolerance community, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help people by developing sensors for other dietary allergens.

–Jingqing Zhang, lead scientist, Nima