Hong Yang named Richard C. Alkire Chair in Chemical Engineering


Written by

Hong Yang, a chemical engineering professor at Illinois since 2012, has been named the Richard C. Alkire Chair in Chemical Engineering in a ceremony honoring his commitment and leadership within the field.

Yang is recognized worldwide for his contribution to the fundamental understanding and processing of nanostructured materials such as precisely controlled metal, metal alloy, and oxide nanoparticles. Yang’s research places an emphasis on sustainability, with research applications in energy, and chemical conversion as applied to fuel cell and battery, generation of hydrogen, and utilization of carbon dioxide. He is one of the most cited researchers in his field.

Provost Andreas Cangellaris awarded Yang his medallion.

“Hong Yang is celebrated across the world,” Cangellaris said. “The work that professor Yang is doing is truly pioneering for the green future of our world. He has ways of making things happen that a few years ago were unthinkable.”

Professors Hong Yang and Richard Alkire
Professors Hong Yang and Richard Alkire

Yang graduated from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree; in 1994, he earned his master’s degree from the University of Victoria, and in 1998 he earned his doctoral degree from the University of Toronto. He joined the faculty at the University of Rochester, and in 2012 he joined the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois.

In his early years on campus, when people asked him why he made a mid-career move to Illinois, Yang often told them it was because of the excellent engineering research and infrastructure. But he’s come to understand that many people, including himself, grow to love the university because of its community, which provides opportunities for collaboration, and which demands academic vigor as faculty are consistently challenged to bring their “A game” to everything they do, he said.

“With this endowed position, I am looking forward to working with my students and colleagues to tackle exciting green technology problems in the future,” Yang said.

The Richard Alkire Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering recognizes expertise and academic abilities within the field of chemical engineering. The predecessor of this named position was established by Charles J. (BS, ’44, chemical engineering) and Dorothy G. Prizer.

Prizer spent the majority of his professional career serving in a variety of executive roles for the Rohm & Haas Company, including corporate vice president in several divisions and ultimately retiring as vice president and regional director of corporate operations, North America region.

The present chair was also established through the generosity of former students and friends of Alkire, who joined the department in 1969. Alkire, the Charles J. and Dorothy G. Prizer Chair Emeritus, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

“The donors to this Chair are expressing a sense of deep gratitude that has lasted for decades. It is deeper than a high H-Factor, or an impressive Front Cover on a prestigious journal. It is to be cherished. It is a core value of a great university. These donors want to pay back for something important that happened when they were students here. It is that spirit that is embedded in this Chair,” Alkire said.

“The research of Professor Yang represents a superb example of a wonderful group of brilliant young people working on important high-impact problems such as the reduction of oxygen, one of the most important reactions of them all,” he added.

During the ceremony, Yang thanked his colleagues and LAS, as well as his wife, Xinhong, and two children, Chloe and Dan.

“Investitures bring together everything I love about the academy. Fantastic faculty, remarkable students, family, and donors,” said Matthew Ando, associate dean for life and physical sciences in the College of LAS. “Hopefully the trust placed upon you in this way will enable you to act when great ideas happen. What’s really exciting is when someone gives you the resources to pursue a great idea with a friend down the hall. That’s what these investitures do.”

Share this story

This story was published November 15, 2018.