Queen鈥檚 attracts world-renowned nuclear materials scientist

World-leading expertise

Queen鈥檚 attracts world-renowned nuclear materials scientist

Yanwen Zhang will join Queen鈥檚 as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies.

By Kayla Dettinger, Special Projects Officer

March 8, 2024

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Dr. Yanwen Zhang

Dr. Yanwen Zhang has been appointed the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies at 成人大片 and will be joining the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Smith Engineering.

As the world looks for solutions to curb climate change, nuclear energy is anticipated to play a key role in the low-carbon transition. Now, Queen鈥檚 will be welcoming an internationally recognized scientist whose research into nuclear materials may help the industry find ways to build safer and longer-lasting reactors.

Yanwen Zhang will join the university as the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies.

Designed to recruit top researchers to Canada, the CERC is among the most prestigious and well-funded programs supporting leading-edge research globally. Dr. Zhang鈥檚 chair is valued at $8 million over eight years, and it will see her relocate her research program from the Idaho National Laboratory, where she also holds a joint faculty appointment at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She was previously Distinguished R&D Staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The CERC program was established in 2008 to help grow Canada鈥檚 international reputation in research and innovation and make the country a destination for scholars looking to advance world-class research. In November 2023, the Government of Canada announced $248 million to support the appointment of 34 new CERCs at 18 post-secondary institutions across the country. Dr. Zhang will join Paul Kubes, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Immunophysiology and Immunotherapy at Queen鈥檚, as the second CERC to join Queen鈥檚 in this funding round.

"I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be part of the prestigious CERC program, which will see me come to Canada and join a group of leading experts in nuclear materials at 成人大片 University. My research is uncovering connections among seemingly disparate phenomena and pushing the boundaries of materials science, so we can better understand the role of nuclear in our transition to a low-carbon future."

鈥 Dr. Yanwen Zhang

Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies

Dr. Yanwen Zhang

Dr. Zhang was previously the Director of the U.S. Department of Energy鈥檚 Energy Frontier Research Center for Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution. In 2005, she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honour bestowed by the US federal government and conferred by the White House. She also holds two PhD degrees: one in science from Beijing Normal University and one in nuclear physics from Lund University in Sweden.

"The CERC is an extremely competitive program. We are proud to have secured another Chair for Queen鈥檚 and recruit a leading researcher to Canada," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Queen鈥檚 is already recognized globally for expertise in nuclear materials research, and Dr. Zhang will catapult this strength to new levels. The mission of the CERC is to do just this 鈥 increase Canada鈥檚 competitiveness on the world stage in areas where there is already significant momentum."

Advancing Canada鈥檚 energy transition

Nuclear reactor systems support approximately 15 per cent of Canada鈥檚 overall energy production. In Ontario, that number is 60 per cent, and demand for nuclear energy is growing. The deployment of safer, longer-lasting production facilities, however, hinges on advancing our understanding of how alloys perform in nuclear reactor components, such as the cladding that protects reactor fuel.

Dr. Yanwen Zhang

Dr. Zhang is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honour bestowed by the US federal government and conferred by the White House.

Dr. Zhang鈥檚 research seeks to predict the degradation of alloys in the high-intensity environments of nuclear reactors. Her goal is to uncover insights into "self-healing" mechanisms, structural stability, and deformation tolerance under high stress, temperature, radiation, and other extreme material conditions. Critical to this research will be Queen鈥檚 (RMTL), a state-of-the-art proton and helium accelerator that mimics the changes to materials occurring in a nuclear reactor.

Through collaborative efforts with the , partners, national labs, and the nuclear industry, this work has the potential to impact various sectors. It will also enhance the efficiency, reliability, safety, and cost-effectiveness of nuclear energy systems and is vital to ushering in a new era of safe, resilient, and high-performing nuclear energy.

"For nearly three decades, I have dedicated my work to understanding defect dynamics and radiation effects in materials," explains Dr. Zhang. "I am excited to be continuing this research at Queen鈥檚 鈥 a university with a long history of expertise in materials science and a commitment to advancing research to combat climate change."

Dr. Zhang will begin her term in Spring 2024. To learn more about the CERC program, visit the .


An internationally leading expert in immunology, Dr. Paul Kubes will join Queen鈥檚 as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Immunophysiology and Immunotherapy, this Spring. Dr. Kubes has received $8 million to advance his research program, which is at the forefront of real-time imaging of the immune system. His work aims to elucidate how changes in a person鈥檚 immune cell biology can alter the stability of the body鈥檚 chemical and physical state leading to diseases, including cancer.

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