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Yang Zhang
Yang Zhang

Administrative Titles

Associate Professor
(217) 300-0452
111A Talbot Laboratory

For more information


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ph.D., Nuclear Science and Engineering, 2010
  • University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), B.S., Electrical Science and Technology, 2004

Academic Positions

  • 2020 - present, Associate Head, Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2020 - present, Donald Biggar Willett Faculty Scholar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2019 - 2020, Visiting Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • 2018 - present, Associate Professor, Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer and Engineering, Program of Computational Science and Engineering, Center for Biophysics and Quantitative Biology, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2012 - 2018, Assistant Professor, Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2010 - 2012, Clifford G. Shull Fellow, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Research Statement

YZ's research can be summarized in three words: Molecules, Materials, and Machines. On the basic science side, his group synergistically combines and pushes 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. The goal is to significantly extend our understanding of the equilibrium and non-equilibrium properties of natural and synthetic materials from the molecular and electronic level and provide accurate predictions and rational guidance to the design, synthesis, fabrication, and utilization of novel materials. Particular emphasis is given to the physics and chemistry of liquids, especially at interfaces, driven away from equilibrium, or under extreme conditions. On the applied research side, leveraging their expertise in novel materials and modeling, his group advances the development of soft robots and human-compatible machines, robots in extreme environments, intelligent control algorithms, and understandable artificial intelligence which can lead to immediate societal impact.

Research Interests

  • Molecules & Materials: Non-equilibrium physics and accelerated molecular simulations (long timescale phenomena, rare events, irreversibility, randomness); Physics and chemistry of liquids and complex fluids, especially under interfacial/non-equilibrium/extreme conditions (water, metallic liquids, molten salts, ionic liquids, electrolyte solutions); Neutron scattering, sources, and instrumentation
  • Machines: Soft robots and human-compatible machines; Robots in extreme environments; Understandable artificial intelligence

Research Areas

  • Algorithms and computational complexity
  • Machine learning
  • Robotics
  • Robotics and motion planning
  • Robotics, vision, and artificial intelligence

Research Topics

Selected Articles in Journals

Journal Editorships

  • Associate Editor, Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, IF=5.799 (2020), 2016 - present


  • Donald Biggar Willett Faculty Scholar, UIUC (2020)
  • Dean's Award for Excellence in Research, Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC (2020)
  • Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award, American Nuclear Society, "in recognition of his contributions to nuclear and advanced experimental techniques to understand the complex makeup, nature and performance of materials in the far-from-equilibrium state" (2017)
  • Doctoral New Investigator Award, American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (2015)
  • Collins Fellow, UIUC (2013)
  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019) (2013-present)
  • Clifford G. Shull Fellowship, ORNL (2010)
  • Manson Benedict Award, MIT (2008)
  • Neutron Scattering Society of America Prize (2008)

Courses Taught

  • NPRE 446 - Radiation Interact w/Matter I
  • NPRE 447 - Radiation Interact w/Matter II
  • NPRE 498 - Multiple Events&Comp Methods
  • NPRE 498 - Multiple Events&Compu Methods
  • NPRE 521 - Interact of Radiation w/Matter
  • NPRE 595 - Student Research Seminar
  • NPRE 598 - Interact Radiation w/Matter II

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