Holonyak Lab student awarded Yunni and Maxine Pao Memorial Fellowship

6/3/2020 3:41:02 PM Lizzie Roehrs, CSL

Yan Zhang is a PhD candidate working in the Integrated Neuro Technologies Lab led by Prof. Yurii Vlasov. Zhang aims to uncover the principles of brain computations by employing micro/nano engineering, systems neuroscience, and data analytics to further advance the knowledge and treatment of neurological disorders. Specifically, he develops advanced silicon neural probes that can be implanted in the brain to collect information on electrical and chemical neural activity. 

Ph.D. student Yan Zhang
Ph.D. student Yan Zhang

His research excellence has been recognized with a series of honors and awards, including the ECE Elsa and Floyd Dunn Award, the Graduate College Conference Travel Award, the ECE Shun Lien Chuang Memorial Award for Excellence in Graduate Education, and, most recently, the 2020-2021 Yunni and Maxine Pao Memorial Fellowship.

“I wish to sincerely extend my heartfelt gratitude to the donor of this fellowship,” said Zhang. “I regard this fellowship as the recognition of all my previous achievements and hard work. It makes me feel more confident in the impact of my current research.”

This fellowship is awarded to high-achieving students from the United States or Hong Kong who have at least one parent from China.

“This award endows me with more financial support to continue my Ph.D. studies,” said Zhang. “It enables me to explore different research ideas and afford new equipment. It will also grant me access to more resources that can help me supplement knowledge in the field of neuroscience. That will be very helpful.”

Zhang graduated from Tsinghua University with a master’s degree in BioMEMS. While obtaining his Ph.D. at Illinois, he is also getting a second master’s degree in Applied Statistics. This second degree will ensure that he receives rigorous training in machine learning theory and application. 

Zhang said that the human brain is a natural frame of reference for machine learning. Machine learning is revolutionizing the field of neuroscience by enabling scientists to decode complex patterns in the brain. He would like to combine his dual expertise in the future to boost research on artificial intelligence inspired by the human brain.