Yang Zhang wins Dean's Award for Excellence in Research


James Sopkin

Yang Zhang wins Dean's Award for Excellence in Research

Yang Zhang (YZ), an associate professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, was recently awarded with the 2020 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research.

The award recognizes YZ’s last five years of research accomplishments and publications. Since the award’s inception in 1982,

Yang Zhang
Yang Zhang
YZ is the fourth NPRE recipient, following J.P. Allain (2017), Zahra Mohaghegh (2013), and David Ruzic (1990). 

“Centering around non-equilibrium physics, the research carried out by my amazing students and postdocs is best summarized by three words: molecules, materials, and machines,” YZ said. “Our vision is to understand the emerging laws of nature at the molecular and electronic level, then create materials with desired properties, and lastly build intelligent machines out of these new materials.”

On the basic science side, YZ’s team synergistically combine and push the boundaries of theoretical and computational molecular science and neutron and X-ray scattering experiments. They develop accelerated molecular simulation methods, based on quantum and statistical mechanics and verified by experiments, which can effectively model a wide range of long timescale phenomena and rare events. YZ is especially focused on the physics and chemistry of liquids, especially at interfaces, driven away from equilibrium, or under extreme conditions.

YZ and his team hope to significantly expand our understanding of the properties of natural and synthetic materials under equilibrium and non-equilibrium conditions. Doing so would allow for the design, fabrication and utilization of new materials with greater rational guidance.

On the applied research side, leveraging their expertise in novel soft materials, YZ’s group advances the development of soft robotics and human-compatible machines, intelligent and continuous control, and understandable artificial intelligence that can lead to immediate societal impact.

YZ received his B.S. in Electrical Science and Technology from University of Science and Technology of China in 2004 and his Ph.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. He was a Clifford G. Shull Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 2010 to 2012.

His other recent awards include being named a Donald Biggar Willett Faculty Scholar this year and winning the Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award from the American Nuclear Society in 2017.

For more information on his work, check out his group website here.