MSUToday
Published: April 16, 2020

MSU professor receives 2020 Young Investigator Program award

Contact(s): Patricia Mroczek College of Engineering office: (517) 432-1303 mroczekp@egr.msu.edu, Caroline Brooks Communications and Brand Strategy office: 517-432-0920 brooks78@msu.edu

Peng Zhang will advance research on high-power microwaves after receiving a 2020 Young Investigator Program award from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. 

Zhang is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of MSU’s NanoPATh Group. He will use $510,000 over three years for his research on “Multi-frequency High Power Microwave Generation and Amplification via Optically Gated Electron Beams.”

“I am interested in laser induced high-current electron beam emission and modulation, and its interaction with electromagnetic circuits and structures,” Zhang said. “The research is important in advancing high-current electron sources, compact particle accelerators and compact high-power electromagnetic radiation sources and amplifiers.”

Zhang explained he will explore the generation and amplification of high-power microwaves (HPM) using electron beams generated by ultrafast lasers. “Ultrafast lasers provide unprecedented capabilities to control electron beam dynamics, which is critical for HPM excitation,” he said. “Useful scaling laws are expected to emerge from our theoretical and computational studies. The research will help the development of advanced HPM devices, which are crucial for a variety of applications ranging from satellite communications to pulsed power electronics.”

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel said Young Investigator Program awards are coveted national honors and reflect the high standard of work being done in the College of Engineering.

“This program fosters creative research and recognizes Dr. Zhang’s strengths for conducting basic research,” Kempel said. “It is a significant achievement for a member of the College of Engineering to win two Department of Defense Young Investigator Program awards in two years.”

MSU Foundation Professor and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering chair John Papapolymerou said Zhang was one of 26 awardees selected nationally after a highly competitive process. 

“This is a great accomplishment recognizing the potential of Dr. Zhang's research ideas to create new technologies that will help our country maintain its competitive advantage over its adversaries,” Papapolymerou said. “In a relatively short amount of time since joining MSU, Dr. Zhang has established himself as a rising leader in the areas of nanoelectronics, plasmas and accelerator technology. It is a great honor to be his colleague at MSU.”

Zhang joined MSU in 2016. His research interests are in theory and modeling of nanoelectronics, electromagnetic fields and waves, plasmas and accelerator technology. In 2018, he received a Young Investigator Program award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 

Zhang was awarded a Ph.D and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences from the University of Michigan. He also has a master’s degree in microelectronics and bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The U.S. Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program was established in 1985 and is one of the nation’s oldest and most selective basic-research, early-career awards in science and technology. The award funds tenure-track academic researchers, or equivalent, whose scientific pursuits show outstanding promise for supporting the Department of Defense, while also promoting their professional development.

Peng Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, receives prestigious 2020 Young Investigator Program award.

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