Curreli, Zhang named Donald Biggar Willett Faculty Scholars

5/7/2020 Phillip Kisubika

Written by Phillip Kisubika

Curreli, Zhang named Donald Biggar Willett Faculty Scholars

NPRE associate professors Davide Curreli and Yang “YZ” Zhang were both recently named Donald Biggar Willett Faculty Scholars.

This recognition is targeted for faculty members who are excelling in their contributions to the University of Illinois, in addition to excellence in research, teaching, and professional service.

“NPRE has been extremely fortunate to have some of the brightest young and mid-career faculty members in the GCoE, as well as among the nuclear departments around the country,” department head Rizwan Uddin said.

On a broader scale, the Willett Research Initiatives in Engineering funds professorships, undergraduate and graduate student research, and related research activity. It honors the memory of Donald Biggar Willett (1897-1981), who attended the University of Illinois from 1916-1921.

Curreli has been at the University since 2012, when he came as a postdoctoral researcher from his native Italy. He began as an assistant professor at 2013 and was promoted to associate professor in 2019.

“Professor Curreli is already a recognized world leader in the field of computational plasma physics and plasma-material interactions,” Uddin said. “Professor Curreli’s established reputation as a leader is evidenced by numerous invited lectures and seminars at major national laboratories and universities.”  

YZ also started at the U of I in 2012, after serving as a Clifford G. Shull Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He was an assistant professor before being promoted to associate professor in 2018. He was also recently given the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research by the Grainger College of Engineering.

“Professor Zhang has already made an impact in several fields, including study of materials far from equilibrium such as liquids and glassy matter, neutron scattering techniques, atomistic simulations, and soft robotics,” Uddin said. “His accomplishments are marked by his ability to perform complex experiments and provide the computational and theory support to explain very complicated processes. He is a highly sought-after speaker on the (invited) lecture circuit.”

“I'm truly humbled to receive this honor and to be among the amazing faculty holding this title in the Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois,” YZ said. “It was a pleasant surprise! I take it as encouragement, and I appreciate all the support the department has offered in the last few years.”

Share this story

This story was published May 7, 2020.