Miguel Guzman ’24, a native of Lima, Peru, is a senior biotechnology major in the College of Arts and Sciences with an entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises minor in the Whitman School of Management. His research centers on developing bio-enabled protein…
Professor Jianshun ‘Jensen’ Zhang Named Executive Director of Syracuse Center of Excellence
Syracuse University has named a new executive director to lead the Syracuse Center of Excellence (SyracuseCoE) in Environmental and Energy Systems. Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, a longtime professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), begins in that role July 1.
Professor Zhang’s appointment to the renewable three-year term was announced by Ramesh Raina, interim vice president in the University’s Office of Research. Zhang will lead research activity and operations at the downtown SyracuseCoE building and serve as principal investigator for the New York State Department of Economic Development contract that provides the center’s annual operating funds.
The SyracuseCoE engages with more than 200 private companies, organizations and academic institutions to create new products and services in indoor environmental quality, clean and renewable energy and water resource management. Its research areas include systems that monitor and control comfortable air temperature, air quality, lighting, sound and water quality in built and urban environments, and innovative energy systems, including clean technologies and renewable fuel sources.
“Now is an especially critical time for innovation in climate change, energy and fuel sources, and air quality and temperature control research, and the University is thrilled that Professor Zhang has accepted this important role,” says Raina. “His unique multidisciplinary background, notable international reputation, extensive applied research strengths, recognized industry knowledge and high degree of dedication to the University, fellow faculty and student communities will be instrumental in leading the SyracuseCoE forward.”
Zhang, who has more than 30 years of research experience in built environmental systems, also retains his position as a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and his role as one of three co-leaders of the University’s Energy and Environment research cluster and is its Heathy and Intelligent Built Environments subcluster lead. He will report to the University’s vice president of research.
Aiding Zhang in his transition to the SyracuseCoE position will be Eric Schiff, who had been chair of the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences and who has served as SyracuseCoE interim executive director since May 2020. A professor of physics at Syracuse University since 1981, Schiff has led interdisciplinary research groups and collaborations with laboratories from other universities and private organizations the world over.
“We extend much gratitude to Professor Schiff for maintaining the integrity of SyracuseCoE operations and its research momentum these past two challenging years. The University is extremely appreciative of the steady hand and thoughtful guidance he provided during a time when focus on both the importance of indoor air quality and the impacts of climate change experienced heightened world attention and concern,” says Raina.
Excited for the Future
As someone who has been involved with the development of the SyracuseCoE since its inception, and who has maintained a keen interest in its research activities through the years, Zhang says he is particularly honored to have been asked to lead its operations.
“I’m quite excited at the opportunity to lead a center like this. It’s a unique platform where you can integrate research and product development along with the commercialization and licensing aspects of bringing applied research to industry. I’m also excited because there is a huge demand and a need for technology that can improve human health and combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions,” he says. “There’s much more opportunity for research and product development in that arena now, as evidenced by an increase in requests for proposals we’ve seen from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, as well as the increasing interest and significant funding supports from the relevant industries.”
Zhang’s goals for the organization include furthering the center’s engagement with faculty at Syracuse University; initiating and continuing partnerships with other universities; and expanding the center’s intersection with industry innovators and business partners.
He’d also like to raise the SyracuseCoE’s national and international profile and foster further collaboration with international researchers and companies. He is also interested in working more closely with startups to bring new ideas in active research applications to the marketplace.
Assessment Center, Testbed
Another vision of Zhang’s is developing a building assessment center to educate students on how to assess building’s energy and environmental performance, make recommendations on what improvements can be made and how to make them and then quantify the energy savings and health impacts those changes would create. Due to Schiff’s initiating the proposal for piloting such a center and the strong support from ECS, SyracuseCoE will be well positioned to compete for future funding opportunities in this area, Zhang says.
Working in concert with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and other universities, Zhang also wants to guide the development of a testbed in Syracuse that would examine air quality in buildings and in urban microenvironments around buildings. Its focus would be on improving people’s health by reducing their exposures to both the indoor atmosphere of the buildings they frequent as well as the outdoor environment they experience on the street, he says.
Zhang earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in systems engineering from Beijing Agricultural Engineering University, and a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering with a specialty in structures and environment from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before he joined Syracuse University in 1999, he had been a researcher at the National Research Council of Canada for eight years.
His areas of expertise include combined heat, air, moisture and pollutant simulations in buildings; material emissions; air filtration/purification; ventilation; indoor air quality and intelligent control of building environmental systems. He has developed advanced experimental methods and apparatus, computer simulation models and environmental control technologies. He has authored or co-authored more than 200 technical papers and three standard methods for testing organic emissions from building materials and furnishings.
Zhang is a fellow of American Society for Heating, Refrigerating, and Airconditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and a member of the International Academy of Indoor Air Science (ISIAQ fellow). He also is currently vice president of IAQVEC (Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation and Energy Conservation) Association. He also served as president and chairman of the board of the International Association of Building Physics from 2018 to 2021.