Inaugural Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Lecture Given by Zhifeng Ren

Zhifeng Ren, Professor of Physics and Director of UH’s Texas Center for Superconductivity, Shares Research on Potentially World-Changing Materials and Technologies

On November 14, University of Houston physics professor Zhifeng Ren delivered the inaugural Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Lecture, sharing his research on World-Changing Materials and Technologies. One hundred forty guests attended the event in the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion of the UH M.D. Anderson Library.

Zhifeng Ren, Paul Chu, Kevin Bassler (Physics Chair) and May Chu
From left, Zhifeng Ren, Paul Chu, Kevin Bassler (Physics Chair) and May Chu.

Ren’s lecture focused on energy conversion and the transport, storage, and moving of people and goods at ultrahigh speed.

World-renowned superconductivity expert Professor Paul Chu and his wife, May Chern Chu, established the endowed lecture in the Department of Physics to bring innovative thought leaders to UH and Houston to share their ground-breaking research having a global impact for the betterment of society.

To commemorate the event, Professor Kevin Bassler, chair of the UH physics department, joined Professor and Mrs. Chu to present Professor Ren with a plaque to recognize his lectureship.

Ren was appointed the Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Chair in Condensed Matter Physics on September 1, with the formal announcement occurring at the “Making a Difference” gift tribute held by the UH College of Natural Science and Mathematics and the Department of Physics to honor the Chus for their generous donation.

Paul Chu explained that when he returned from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2009 after serving as president, he promised UH President Renu Khator he would help recruit one of the best condensed matter physicists to UH. “Zhifeng has been here since 2013,” Chu said. “In the 2011 centennial celebration of the discovery of superconductivity in Boston, I promised Professor Ren that I would do everything to help create an endowed chair to recognize his continued accomplishments at TcSUH. I am happy to declare here today, ‘Mission Accomplished!’”

Ren is the director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH (TcSUH), where over 200 researchers work to discover and improve new materials, advance science and engineering, and transfer breakthroughs in technology to the industrial sector. Their work impacts the emerging high temperature superconducting electric power community, the energy industry, the medical community, and other sectors.

At TcSUH, Ren is also a principal investigator. He leads a research group focusing on high-performance thermoelectric materials, ultrahigh thermal conductivity and carrier mobility in boron arsenide single crystals, nanomaterials for oil recovery, catalysts for hydrogen and oxygen evolution reactions, heated HEPA filters for air cleaning, superconductor levitated fast vehicles for mass transport, energy transmission and storage, and battery recycling.

Ren received a B.S. from the Sichuan Institute of Technology and an M.S. from Huazhong University of Science and Technology before completing a Ph.D. at the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing. He joined UH in 2013, following appointments at Boston College and SUNY at Buffalo.

In addition to authoring over 626 peer-reviewed papers, Ren is the founding and current editor-in-chief of Materials Today Physics, published by Elsevier, and editor-in-chief of Soft Science. He has 63 U.S. patents and eight foreign patents, and Physics World cited his experimental work on the cubic boron arsenide crystals among the Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2022.

Ren has received many awards and accolades, including Outstanding Overseas Chinese Young Investigator in 2005, R&D 100 Award in 2008, the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas in 2014, and the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2018.

He is a fellow of The National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, and the Materials Research Society.

According to the Web of Science™ Author Profile, Clarivate’s Institute for Scientific Information has listed Professor Ren in the annual list of Highly Cited Researchers since 2018. Clarivate released the 2023 Rankings on November 15. He is again listed as a highly cited researcher whose published academic papers rank in the top 1% of citations for field and publication year in cross fields. He was cited more than 75,000 times.

A recent Q&A with Dr. Zhifeng Ren outlines his academic background, reasons for coming to UH, and areas of research.

- Sue Butler, Texas Center for Superconductivity at University of Houston