Yonggang Huang

Yonggang Huang

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Engineering

Competition: US & Canada

Northwestern University

Having grown up in a family of science and engineering professors, Professor Yonggang Huang knew from an early age that he wanted to be a professor of science and engineering. His father Keh-Chih Hwang, a well-known mechanics professor at Tsinghua University in China, has been his role model. During high school, and throughout his undergraduate study at Peking University, China, Yonggang was always introduced as “Professor Hwang’s son.” Having followed in his father’s footsteps to become a mechanics professor, Professor Yonggang Huang’s dream is that someday his father will be introduced as “Professor Huang’s father.”

After receiving B.S. in mechanics from Peking University, China in 1984, and S.M. and Ph.D. in Engineering Science from Harvard University in 1987 and 1990, respectively, Professor Huang has taught at several universities in the States, and has held several endowed professorships at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Gauthier Professor, 2003-2004; Soo Professor, 2004-2007) and Northwestern University (Cumming Professor, 2007-present). He has also held visiting chair professor positions at California Institute of Technology (Millikan Professor, 2005-2006), University of Hong Kong (Royal Society Professor, 2006-2007), and Tsinghua University (ChangJiang Professor, 2005-2008) and Zhejiang University (Tang Professor, 2007; Guangbiao Professor, 2008-2011) in China.

Professor Huang established a reputation as a creative researcher through the development of Mechanism-based Strain Gradient plasticity theory (MSG) that aims to provide a coherent general framework linking the microscale dislocation models in materials science to the macroscale mechanics theories. This new theory departs from traditional mechanics theories for its firm basis in materials science. It has successfully explained the important size effects observed in experiments, which cannot be explained by traditional mechanics theories. The MSG theory has drawn significant attention in the mechanics and materials science communities. Professor Huang’s first paper on MSG (“Mechanism-based strain gradient plasticity─I. Theory,” Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, vol. 47, pp. 1239-1263) published in 1999 is so far the most cited paper among more than 9,700 papers published in the same year in all 110 mechanics journals in Thomson ISI Web of Science (webofscience.com). It is also the most cited paper among more than 8,700 papers in all 104 mechanical engineering journals published in the same year in Thomson ISI Web of Science. His second MSG paper (“Mechanism-based strain gradient plasticity─II. Analysis,” Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, vol. 48, pp. 99-128, 2000) and a later paper (“A conventional theory of mechanism-based strain gradient plasticity,” International Journal of Plasticity, vol. 20, pp. 753-782, 2004) also become the most cited mechanics and mechanical engineering papers published in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Professor Huang received the International Journal of Plasticity Medal in 2007 “for outstanding contribution to the field of plasticity."

Professor Huang has also developed the nanomechanics theory based on the atomistic models in physics in order to enable mechanics to be applicable down to the nanometer scale. His nanomechanics theory has played a critical role in the development of nanotechnology, and has significantly impacted the mechanics community. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) awarded Professor Huang the Melville Medal in 2004 for his first paper on nanomechanics published in 2002. (The Melville Medal is “the highest ASME honor for the best original paper.") His second nanomechanics paper (“The elastic modulus of single-wall carbon nanotubes: A continuum analysis incorporating interatomic potentials,” International Journal of Solids and Structures, vol. 39, pp. 3893-3906, 2002) is so far the most cited paper among more than 9,700 papers published in the same year in all 110 mechanics journals in Thomson ISI Web of Science (webofscience.com), and also the most cited paper among more than 8,700 papers published in the same year in all 104 mechanical engineering journals.

The recent focus of Professor Huang’s research is mechanics of stretchable electronics. Stretchable electronics represents the next-generation electronics, and has many important applications such as flexible displays, eye-like digital cameras, comformable skin sensors, intelligent surgical gloves, and structural health monitoring devices. Mechanics plays a critical role in stretchable electronics. Professor Huang’s work on mechanics of stretchable electronics has been published in several high-profile journals, such as Nature, Science, Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and has been widely reported by popular media such as ABC, BBC, Chicago Tribune, Discover Magazine, MSNBC, New York Times, Newsweek, Reuters, United Press International, and US News & World Report. His research results quickly attracted international attention. He has given plenary and keynote lectures at many international conferences, and invited seminars at prestigious institutions such as Brown University, CalTech, Cornell, GeorgiaTech, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, RPI, Stanford, Tulane, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA, UCSB, UCSD, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Texas (Austin), University of Washington, University of Wisconsin (Madison), Vanderbilt, and many others outside the States (McMaster University in Canada; Darmstadt University of Technology, Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, and University of Stuttgart in Germany; Chinese Academy of Science, Peking University, Tsinghua University, University of Hong Kong, and Zhejiang University in China; Institute of High Performance Computing, Nanyang Technological University, and National University in Singapore). The stretchable electronics developed by Professors John Rogers (of UIUC) and Huang has been on museum display in “The Tech Museum of Innovation," San Jose, California, since October 2006.

Professor Huang has received many awards for his research, such as the Research Award for US Scientists and Scholars from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany) in 2001, Larson Memorial Award from ASME in 2003 (one award each year for outstanding achievement in mechanical engineering between ten and twenty years after graduation), and Young Investigator Medal from the Society of Engineering Sciences in 2006 (for high impact of research work in engineering sciences within 15 years of terminal degree). Professor Huang also actively collaborates with researchers in Germany and China. In addition to the Research Award for U.S. Scientists and Scholars from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany) in 2001, he received the Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation of China in 2000, Outstanding Overseas Investigator Award from the Chinese Academy of Science in 2006, and Honorary Professor from Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications in 2009.

Among all awards Professor Huang received, the Melville Medal from ASME in 2004 gave him the most pleasure because he received it together with his father, Professor Keh-Chih Hwang of Tsinghua University, China, for their joint work on nanomechanics. When accepting the medal, Professor Huang said “My father has always been my role model. I am very pleased to have followed his footsteps to become a professor of mechanics. In China I have always been introduced as Professor Hwang’s son. I am grateful to ASME for the Melville Medal, which gives me the opportunity to introduce Professor Keh-Chih Hwang as Professor Huang’s father.”


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