Richard Zhang, who will join the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech this fall, was named the Hugh P. and Ethel C. Kelly Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Hugh P. and Ethel C. Kelly Professorship was established in 1998 by the Kelly family to honor Hugh Kelly, a Virginia Tech alumnus who had a long and successful career with AT&T’s Bell Laboratories that included pioneering work in development of the Telstar satellite system. The professorship recognizes and rewards an outstanding faculty member in the College of Engineering’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Recipients hold the professor for a period of five years.

Since 2017, Zhang has been with General Electric’s Grid Integration Solutions business based in Stafford, United Kingdom, as its chief technology officer. From 2008 to 2016, he held several executive technology and business leadership positions at GE Oil & Gas and GE Power Conversion based in Paris, France, and in Shanghai, China. From 1998 to 2008, Zhang was with General Electric Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York, leading power electronics research serving all GE industrial businesses including, GE Renewable Energy, Healthcare, Aviation, Oil & Gas, Power, Transportation, Lighting, and Industrial Systems.

Throughout his career, Zhang has led teams that have received several large government research grants totaling more than $35 million from agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy, and has created major business initiatives and defined and led large research and development portfolios. He managed research and development teams ranging from 50 to more than 500 individuals in nine different nations — the United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Finland, Canada, China, India, and Brazil.

The technologies and products created under Zhang’s leadership have been deployed in cumulative capacity of more than 60 gigawatts in such industries as wind, solar, oil and gas, health care, marine, mining, power generation, and metal processing, enabling more than $10 billion for GE businesses and making extraordinary contributions and impact on society.

In his most recent position, Zhang led research and development of  the most advanced high voltage DC transmission (HVDC) solution in industry, including power electronics and revoluntionary control platform in the industry, enabling bulk power transmission beyond 2 gigawatts for applications such as offshore wind tie-back.  The resulting revolutionary HVDC solutions enabled Zhang’s team to win the production and construction of the world-largest 1.4 gigawatts offshore wind-farm HVDC tie-back project in the North Sea, United Kingdom. He also guided research in the Supergrid Institute in Lyon, France.

In addition to his industrial work, Zhang has made time for the scholarly dissemination of knowledge and mentoring junior colleagues.

He has co-authored 35 papers in peer-reviewed conferences and journals and has more than 100 patents or patents-pending. He has won four best paper awards from his publications on IEEE journals and conferences. Zhang taught numerous courses in the GE Edison Engineering Development Program, GE Six-Sigma Training, and European Ph.D. School. He started internal GE education programs, such as New Product Introduction Leadership Academy at GE Power Conversion and GE HVDC University at GE Grid Integration Solutions. Three of his GE advisees are now professors at universities in the United States and two are CEOs.

Zhang has delivered numerous invited lectures at professional meetings, including a tutorial at Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Energy Conversion Congress and Expo in 2016, at the Biannual Postgraduate Conference at Cambridge University in 2018, at the IEEE eGrid Workshop in 2018, and at the IEEE Workshop on Power Electronics for Grid Dynamics at Imperial College in 2019.

Zhang was associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, an administrative committee member of the IEEE Power Electronics Society, has been a reviewer and session organizer for multiple journals and conferences, and has been a member of several IEEE and non-IEEE standardization working groups. He is a Fellow of IEEE for his technical leadership in the development of high-power electronics.

Zhang received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in electrical engineering from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, and a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.

Share this story