Queen’s University welcomes esteemed nuclear materials scientist

Dr. Yanwen Zhang has been appointed as the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies at Queen’s University. Submitted image.

Today, Friday, Mar. 8, 2024, Queen’s University announced the appointment of Yanwen Zhang as the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies.

Dr. Zhang is an internationally recognized scientist whose research into nuclear materials may help the industry find ways to build safer and longer-lasting reactors, as the world looks for solutions to curb climate change, according to a release from the university.

Queen’s explained that nuclear reactor systems support approximately 15 per cent of Canada’s overall energy production. In Ontario, that number is 60 per cent, and demand for nuclear energy is growing. According to the release, 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.

Designed to recruit top researchers to Canada, the CERC is among the most prestigious and well-funded programs supporting leading-edge research globally, Queen’s noted. It was established in 2008 to help grow Canada’s international reputation in research and innovation and make the country a destination for scholars looking to advance world-class research.

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

Dr. Zhang’s chair is valued at $8 million over eight years, and it will see her relocate her research program from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she also holds a joint faculty appointment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as Distinguished R&D Staff and at the Idaho National Laboratory as a Directorate Fellow, according to the release.

“The CERC is an extremely competitive program. We are proud to have secured another Chair for Queen’s and recruit a leading researcher to Canada,” said Nancy Ross, Vice Principal (Research) at the university. “Queen’s 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 – increase Canada’s competitiveness on the world stage in areas where there is already significant momentum.”

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’s, as the second CERC to join Queen’s in this funding round.

The university shared that Dr. Zhang will begin her term in Spring 2024. Learn more about the recently appointed CERCs on the Government of Canada’s website.

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