Campus professor, ‘invisibility cloak’ inventor named president of Hong Kong University

The University of Hong Kong/Courtesy
Professor Xiang Zhang

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The University of Hong Kong, or HKU, named Xiang Zhang, Ernest S. Kuh endowed chair and professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, as its next president and vice chancellor in a mid-December press release.

Zhang will be the 16th president of HKU and has been appointed to a five-year term, the press release said. During the university selection committee’s international search, Zhang’s leadership and outstanding professional accomplishments stood out.

“Professor Zhang’s excellent academic standing and leadership, his integrity, his vision, the demonstration of his management capabilities, and the effectiveness of his interpersonal and communications skills make him a highly qualified candidate meeting the criteria adopted by the Council,” said professor Arthur Li, chair of the HKU Council and the HKU Selection Committee, in the press release.

In addition to having published more than 200 journal articles in publications including Science and Nature, Zhang is also the former director of the Materials Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a member of the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute. According to his lab’s website, Zhang’s research focuses on how light and matter interact at the nanoscale and includes the field of metamaterials — engineering materials to exhibit behaviors not found in nature.

Zhang’s metamaterial research earned him national recognition when he invented an “invisibility cloak,” which Time magazine included on its list of “Best Inventions of 2008.”

Chengzhi Shi, a graduate student in Zhang’s lab, echoed HKU’s judgments about Zhang’s outstanding academic and leadership skills.

“He is the best friend of all students, postdoc, and researchers in the lab. Whoever has a problem either on scientific research or everyday life, he always tries his best to help us,” Shi said in an email. “He is also great on ensur(ing) the diversity and equality both in the lab and on campus.”

Peers have also acknowledged Zhang’s commanding contributions to science and engineering — he has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and Academia Sinica and has earned fellowships from five scientific societies.

Zhang laid out his vision for the future of HKU while meeting with the university’s staff and students last month.

“I envision HKU to excel as a leading global university,” Zhang said in the press release. “It will not only inspire our next generation of leaders but will also lead in intellectual, social and economic transformations in Asia and around the world.”

Contact Sam Levin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SamJLevin.