Zilin “Jason” Zhou is proud to say he was not only educated at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies – he was transformed. His experience at the iSchool was so profound that he hopes to impact the next generation of students.

“I believe my journey could inspire current students and fellow alumni to explore, innovate and lead with impact,” said Zhou, who graduated in 2021 with a bachelor of science in information management and technology with a concentration in human-computer interaction. 

Now a product designer at PayPal, Zhou is in charge of leading and designing PayPal’s next-generation ID verification experience. His primary focus has been on enhancing the digital security experience, particularly in the realm of identity verification. His work earned him a Red Dot Design Award in 2023 and an IF Design Award in 2024. 

The recent development of PayPal’s Biometric ID Verification system is the most meaningful project Zhou has worked on and stands out as one of his most challenging yet rewarding experiences. 

By integrating advanced machine learning and AI technologies, he and the team designed a system capable of performing real-time identity verification during potentially suspicious transactions. That was particularly crucial for PayPal’s cryptocurrency products and affected millions of users worldwide by providing an additional layer of security without compromising the ease of transaction.

 “This work is critical in today’s digital age, where security and trust are paramount,” Zhou said. “By designing solutions that are not only effective but also user-friendly, I aim to make the digital world a safer place for our users, helping to combat fraud and protect sensitive information. It’s a challenging yet rewarding mission, driving me to innovate and push the boundaries of traditional design thinking.”

Zhou’s journey into the field of product design, particularly focusing on digital security and user experience, is a story of evolution and discovery. As a child, he was always fascinated by technology and the possibilities it presented. 

“I remember being captivated by the way technology could transform lives, although I hadn’t yet pinpointed how I wanted to contribute to that transformation,” he said. 

 When he first attended Syracuse University, he initially wanted to dive into computer science because he was drawn to the idea of being at the forefront of technological innovation. However, he quickly realized that while he was passionate about technology, coding wasn’t how he wanted to express his creativity and innovation. 

That realization led him to explore other avenues where he could marry his interest in technology with his growing passion for creativity and design. He found his calling while taking graphic design classes at Syracuse’s Newhouse School.

“The world of design opened up to me in these classes, revealing a universe where technology and design intersected in fascinating and impactful ways,” he said. “I was enamored by the power of design to shape user experiences, making technology not just accessible but also engaging and empowering.”

That discovery steered him towards specializing in web design and user experience. Design soon became more than just a career path to Zhou – it evolved into a mission. 

“I was determined to create digital experiences that were not only aesthetically pleasing but also intuitive and inclusive, leveraging technology to enhance every interaction,” he said. 

Zhou credits his time at Syracuse for helping him succeed in his career, especially the cutting-edge curriculum, insightful faculty, and the diverse, supportive community. 

“I am eager to share my story with the broader Syracuse community, highlighting how the iSchool fosters innovation, leadership, and a relentless pursuit of excellence,” Zhou said. “I’m passionate about continuing the journey I’m on. The idea isn’t just to fill up a portfolio with impressive designs; it’s about leaving a mark, touching lives, and maybe, just maybe, changing the world in my own small way.”