Zhang Joins Math Department

Zhang Joins Math Department
Brings Expertise in Statistical Properties of Stochastic Processes

Hongkun ZhangHongkun Zhang joined the University of Houston’s Department of Mathematics this fall as an associate professor. Her primary research field is statistical properties of stochastic processes generated by dynamical systems, including chaotic billiards. She is teaching a graduate course in Probability and Statistics.

“The theory of billiards has recently been developed to the point where it provides mathematical tools to address open problems in physics,” Zhang said. “My long-term research goal is to use the new tools developed in the theory of billiards to solve challenging problems arising in statistical mechanics and financial mathematics.”

Zhang currently holds a National Science Foundation CAREER Award that was awarded in 2012. The five-year, $400,000 award is for her project “The Nature of SRB Measures for Nonequilibrium Hyperbolic Systems.”

Through the project, Zhang seeks both a theoretical understanding and new ways to connect mathematical ideas to a variety of complex phenomena. The work, focusing on statistical properties for nonequilibrium billiards and properties of SRB measures and related physical laws, will use spectral analysis, coupling methods and other innovative approaches.

Zhang’s research will address applied problems in physics, chemical engineering and other sciences.

“The theory of billiard systems provides excellent models or paradigms for understanding chaos and diffusion processes in nonequilibrium systems,” Zhang said. “Because the study of SRB measures and their asymptotic properties provides new insight into the nature of nonequilibrium steady states and transport phenomena, the research will greatly contribute to modern statistical physics.”

Zhang hopes to integrate her research into curriculum development, including new graduate-level topics courses on aspects of Stochastic Differential Equations and Machine Learning.

Prior to joining the UH faculty, Zhang served as an associate professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her bachelor’s degree from Inner Mongolia University and her Ph.D. in 2005 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics