Degree: Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
College/School: College of Engineering and Computing
As a kid growing up in Shanghai, China, Cheng Zhang loved trying to fix anything that was broken. He dreamed of becoming an engineer and having an impact on humanity.
Today, he is engaged in out-of-this-world research – on the next generation of materials that will be used on spacecraft. As a researcher in materials science and engineering, he specializes in high-temperature ceramics for hypersonic vehicles. When a spacecraft reenters the earth’s orbit, its temperature can reach 2,000 degrees. Cheng’s materials will protect the vehicles from melting and oxidation.
Cheng has two mentors – Professor Arvind Agarwal, who convinced him to pursue his Ph.D., and Professor Benjamin Boesl, with whom he works closely in the lab. After graduation, Cheng plans to stay at FIU to do his post doctorate research in the Plasma Forming Lab. There, he’ll work on repairing aircraft using a cold spray technique: a powder deposition process which shoots powders at hypersonic speed.
Cheng has published 17 journal articles – five as first author – in the field of advanced materials development. He has published with collaborators from different disciplines, and across the world. His work has been cited more than 150 times, and led to one patent declaration.