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 for Graduate Programs, 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, Illinois Robotics Group, Center for Autonomy, 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 into two words: Matter and Machine. On the Matter side, his group synergistically combines and pushes the boundaries of accelerated atomistic simulations, stochastic dynamics theories, and neutron scattering experiments, with the goal of significantly extending our understanding of a wide range of long timescale phenomena, rare events, and far-from-equilibrium properties of materials from the atomic and molecular level. Particular emphasis is given to the physics and chemistry of liquids and complex fluids, especially at interfaces, driven away from equilibrium, or under extreme conditions. On the Machine side, leveraging their expertise in materials and modeling, his group advances the development of soft robots and human-compatible machines, robots in extreme environments, and understandable artificial intelligence and intelligent control, which can lead to immediate societal impact. The common theme between these two research thrusts is complexity and emergence, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Research Interests

  • Matter: Far-from-equilibrium physics, accelerated atomistic simulations, and stochastic dynamics (long timescale phenomena, rare events); 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
  • Machine: Soft robots and human-compatible machines; Robots in extreme environments; Understandable artificial intelligence and intelligent control

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=8.090 (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)

Recent Courses Taught

  • NPRE 446 - Radiation Interact w/Matter I
  • NPRE 447 - Radiation Interact w/Matter II
  • NPRE 521 - Interact of Radiation w/Matter
  • NPRE 595 - Student Research Seminar

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