UT-ORII’s Bredesen Center Selects Zhili Zhang to lead UT-ORNL Energy Science and Engineering Ph.D. program

January 23, 2024 – The University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education has named Zhili Zhang as program director of its Energy Science and Engineering (ESE) graduate program. Zhang will be filling the position that has been held on an interim basis by Yanfei Gao, Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at UT.

“Zhili’s 16 years of experience teaching and mentoring students in UT’s Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering (MABE) program, combined with his interactions with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, make him an ideal choice to lead and grow our ESE PhD program,” said Brynn Voy, UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute’s education director and Bredesen Center director.

“I also want to express our tremendous thanks to Yanfei Gao for the outstanding leadership and direction he provided as our interim program director.”

Zhang will work closely with Bredesen Center and UT-ORII leadership to further develop and grow the ESE PhD program, one of three joint UT-ORNL PhD programs. These programs (ESE, Data Science and Engineering (DSE), and Genome Science and Technology (GST)) were created to unite UT and ORNL resources in support of graduate education, and to leverage the impact of ORNL’s reputation and capabilities in recruiting talented UT PhD students. The work of Zhang, along with that of the DSE and GST program directors, will be critical in helping UT-ORII meet its goal of tripling the number of UT graduate students who conduct research at ORNL.

Zhang said he’s very excited about giving more students the chance to work alongside UT and ORNL advisers and access the cutting-edge facilities and resources of a national laboratory.

“There is a lot of work to be done, but we have a tremendous opportunity here to enable the access of even more graduate students to ORNL and to prepare these students to be an active part of ORNL and Tennessee’s future success,” said Zhang.

Zhang joined the MABE department as an assistant professor in 2008. In 2022, he spent time conducting his own research at ORNL as part of a sabbatical. In 2023, he was awarded the prestigious B. Ray Thompson Professorship in recognition of his outstanding performance as an educator and research scientist. Zhang has taught and developed undergraduate and graduate courses; and supervised and mentored undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students. In his new role as ESE program director, Zhang will continue his appointment with MABE.

To learn more about UT-ORII’s Bredesen Center, please visit https://bredesencenter.utk.edu/

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