Mingwei Zhang working in a dark room with light on work table, zoomed in to what he is working on
Mingwei Zhang loads a sample for transmission electron microscopy at the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Zhang worked as a post-doctoral researcher. (Courtesy)

Faculty Appointment a Homecoming for New Materials Science and Engineering Professor

For many new faculty members in the College of Engineering, the interdisciplinary advantages of the University of California, Davis, are welcome discoveries. Mingwei Zhang, a new assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was already very familiar with the unique connections UC Davis creates across campus though.  

Zhang's appointment is a homecoming after receiving his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from UC Davis in 2021, where he studied creep behavior of high entropy alloys as a member of the Shake and Break Research Group led by Professor Emeritus Jeffery C. Gibeling.  

Two people stand in a lab wearing graduation regalia
Professor Emeritus Jeffery C. Gibeling and Mingwei Zhang are pictured in Gibeling's lab at UC Davis following UC Davis's 2021 Commencement when Zhang received his Ph.D. (Courtesy)

"I love this department," Zhang said. "I feel very attached to [the department]. I had a wonderful four years here and so many great relationships with the people here." 

In fact, it was Gibeling's mentorship that guided Zhang to ultimately pursue becoming a professor and Zhang will once again be working in the same lab that he did as a Ph.D. student. It was as a Ph.D. student that Zhang gained his first teaching experience, serving as the lead teaching assistant for one course in the fall, winter, and spring quarters of 2019 and the fall quarter of 2020. 

"It's a really seamless transition," he explained.  

Zhang plans to prioritize establishing capabilities that the lab didn't have when he was a student, specifically the ability to do advanced processing of materials as the team was focused on the mechanical side previously. He plans to acquire new equipment for metal manufacturing and processing as well as develop new techniques and methods to characterize materials on the atomic scale and analyze large experimental datasets.  

The Zhang Group is focused on structural materials research and the development of high-temperature and radiation-tolerant materials, a need that has become especially urgent given advances in space exploration and sustainability efforts. As more complex alloys have become more common, so too have the opportunities for the discovery and design of new materials with mechanical properties that can meet those increased demands. 

"My research is going to discover and design materials by combining a lot of different elements we haven't used before," he explained. 

Zhang sees collaborations with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or LBNL, and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis as hugely important given their existing processing programs.  

And he's already hit the ground running building his research group at UC Davis.  

"I've already identified some students who are really interested in building those platforms," Zhang said.  

Prior to arriving back in Davis, Zhang spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at LBNL, from October 2021 to July 2023.  His research at LBNL used electron microscopy to study the atomic structure of advanced structural materials and how they deform under extreme conditions, including ion radiation and extreme temperatures. 

He received his bachelor of engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai in 2017.

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