Yang Zhang

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Yang Zhang
Associate Professor
  • Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering
111A Talbot Laboratory MC 234
104 S. Wright Street
Urbana Illinois 61801

Primary Research Area

  • Control - Robotics

For more information



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

Academic Positions

  • 2018 - present, Associate Professor, Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Core Faculty Member and Lead, Computational Molecular Science, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2012 - 2018, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2010 - 2012, Clifford G. Shull Fellow, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Research Statement

Z’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 that can effectively model a wide range of long timescale phenomena and rare events, with the goal of significantly extending our understanding of the equilibrium and non-equilibrium properties of natural and synthetic materials from the molecular and electronic level and providing 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 soft materials, his group advances soft robotics, human-compatible machines, wearable human-enhancing devices, and intelligent control algorithms that can lead to immediate societal impact.

Research Interests

  • Molecules & Materials: Theoretical and computational molecular science; Accelerated molecular simulations; Long timescale phenomena and rare events; Neutron and X-ray scattering experiments; Physics and chemistry of liquids, especially under interfacial/non-equilibrium/extreme conditions; Amorphous materials
  • Machines: Soft robotics; Human-compatible machines; Wearable human-enhancing devices; Intelligent control algorithms

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, 2016 – present


  • 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) (2013-2015)
  • 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 529 - Interact of Rad w/Matter II
  • NPRE 595 - Student Research Seminar
  • NPRE 598 - Interact Radiation w/Matter II