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Ying Zhang, professor of mechanical engineering, has been awarded Tennessee Tech University’s highest faculty honor, the 2013 Caplenor Faculty Research Award.

“Professor Zhang has demonstrated over the years that she is a person of the highest character, who also sincerely cares about the people around her,” said J. Allen Haynes, manager of the propulsion materials and corrosion prevention and control programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “These values permeate her work and elevate the people with whom she teaches, mentors and works.”

“That, in addition to her superb technical knowledge and abilities, as well as her sincere desire to consistently deliver excellence in research, is the reason that so many people want to work with her.”

Zhang came to TTU in 2001. In addition to teaching several classes a semester and mentoring students at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, she specializes in research developing high-temperature protective coatings for components in aircraft engines and power plants.

Since coming to Tennessee Tech, Zhang has received more than $1.8 million in external research funding to develop coatings that operate more cleanly and efficiently than those currently in use.

Many of her projects are funded by the National Science Foundation and the federal Department of Energy, and her research team was one of four nationwide invited by the U.S. Navy to submit a proposal to address issues with its surface ship gas turbines.

“I have been always impressed with her ability to obtain research grants from government agencies, with over $1.8 million since she joined your university,” said Woo Young Lee, the George Meade Bond professor in Stevens Institute of Technology’s chemical engineering and materials science department. “Even at any major research university, receiving this level of external funding would be highly regarded, as she carries relatively heavy teaching loads in comparison to her peers at major research universities.”

She has written more than 60 journal and conference papers and is regularly invited to review articles for several academic journals.

TTU’s College of Engineering awarded her the 2008 Kinslow Award for outstanding journal paper and the 2013 Teacher-Scholar Award. She has served as chairperson or on the thesis advisory committees for nine doctoral and 20 master’s degree candidates. More than 20 undergraduate students have worked in the coating research laboratory that she established when she came to Tennessee Tech.

The award was established in memory of Charles Donald Caplenor, former associate vice president for research and dean of instructional development. It recognizes outstanding research accomplishments by TTU faculty.

Zhang received her bachelor’s degree from China’s Yanshan University, her master’s from Shanghai University and her doctorate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The award will be presented at the university’s spring commencement ceremony. The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. May 10 in the Hooper Eblen Center, 1100 McGee Blvd., Cookeville. The ceremony will also be streamed live at www.tntech.edu/web/live.

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