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Zhang “excited” to begin work as new executive director of SyracuseCoE

By Eric Reinhardt (


Jianshun (Jensen) Zhang is the new director of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems. He started his new role on July 1. (PHOTO CREDIT: SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY NEWS WEBSITE)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A longtime professor in Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is the new executive director of the SyracuseCoE.

Jianshun (Jensen) Zhang started in that role July 1.

SyracuseCoE is short for Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, which is located at 727 E. Washington St. in Syracuse.

Excited to lead SyracuseCoE

Zhang said he is particularly honored to have been asked to lead the operations of the SyracuseCoE because he’s someone who has been involved with the facility’s development since its inception. Zhang has also maintained a “keen interest” in the SyracuseCoE’s research activities through the years, Syracuse said. 

“I’m quite excited at the opportunity to lead a center like this. It’s a unique platform where you can integrate research and product development along with the commercialization and licensing aspects of bringing applied research to industry. I’m also excited because there is a huge demand and a need for technology that can improve human health and combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions,” Zhang said. “There’s much more opportunity for research and product development in that arena now, as evidenced by an increase in requests for proposals we’ve seen from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, as well as the increasing interest and significant funding supports from the relevant industries.”

Zhang’s goals for the SyracuseCoE include furthering the center’s engagement with faculty at Syracuse University; initiating and continuing partnerships with other universities; and expanding the center’s intersection with industry innovators and business partners.

He’d also like to raise the SyracuseCoE’s national and international profile and foster further collaboration with international researchers and companies. He is also interested in working more closely with startups to bring new ideas in active research applications to the marketplace.

Zhang announced

Ramesh Raina — interim VP in Syracuse University’s Office of Research — in late June announced Zhang’s appointment to the renewable three-year term. Zhang is leading research activity and operations at the downtown SyracuseCoE building and is serving as principal investigator for the New York State Department of Economic Development contract that provides the center’s annual operating funds, per the Syracuse University announcement.

Zhang assumes the role from Eric Schiff, who has served as SyracuseCoE interim executive director since May 2020. Schiff is also chair of the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

A professor of physics at Syracuse since 1981, Schiff has led interdisciplinary research groups and collaborations with laboratories from other universities and private organizations the world over.

Zhang, who has more than 30 years of research experience in built environmental systems, also retains his position as a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and his role as one of three co-leaders of the university’s Energy and Environment research cluster and is its lead on the Heathy and Intelligent Built Environments subcluster. He will report to the university’s VP of research.

The SyracuseCoE works with more than 200 private companies, organizations, and academic institutions to create new products and services in indoor environmental quality, clean and renewable energy, and water-resource management, Syracuse said. Its research areas include systems that monitor and control comfortable air temperature, air quality, lighting, sound and water quality in built and urban environments, and innovative energy systems, including clean technologies and renewable-fuel sources.

The Syracuse Center of Excellence (SyracuseCoE) in Environmental and Energy Systems is located at 727 E. Washington St. in Syracuse. (ERIC REINHARDT / CNYBJ FILE PHOTO)

Assessment center, testbed

Zhang also envisions developing a building-assessment center to educate students on how to assess building’s energy and environmental performance, make recommendations on what improvements can be made and how to make them and then quantify the energy savings and health impacts those changes would create. 

Due to Schiff’s initiating the proposal for piloting such a center and the strong support from ECS, SyracuseCoE will be “well positioned” to compete for future funding opportunities in this area, Zhang contended.

Working with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and other universities, Zhang also wants to guide the development of a testbed in Syracuse that would examine air quality in buildings and in urban microenvironments around buildings, Syracuse University said. Its focus would be on improving people’s health by reducing their exposures to both the indoor atmosphere of the buildings they frequent as well as the outdoor environment they experience on the street, he noted.

His areas of expertise include combined heat, air, moisture and pollutant simulations in buildings; material emissions; air filtration/purification; ventilation; indoor air quality and intelligent control of building environmental systems. 

He has developed advanced experimental methods and apparatus, computer simulation models and environmental control technologies. He has authored or co-authored more than 200 technical papers and three standard methods for testing organic emissions from building materials and furnishings.

Zhang is a fellow of American Society for Heating, Refrigerating, and Airconditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and a member of the International Academy of Indoor Air Science (ISIAQ fellow). He also is currently serving as VP of IAQVEC (Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation and Energy Conservation) Association. He also served as president and chairman of the board of the International Association of Building Physics from 2018 to 2021.

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