Dr. Xiangwu Zhang, associate department head and director of graduate programs in the department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, was one of four NC State faculty to receive the Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professorship Award for 2016.  The award, which recognizes outstanding graduate level teaching at NC State, was presented at the 2016 Faculty Awards and Mathews Medal Ceremony on April 28.

Zhang was specifically recognized for his exceptional record of graduate student training. “Particularly impressive were the letters from the students themselves, which attested to the extraordinary quality of the mentoring that you provided both during and after their graduate programs at NC State,” said Dr. Maureen Grasso, dean of the Graduate School at NC State, in her letter notifying Zhang of the honor.

It is that unyielding commitment to mentoring the whole student that Zhang prides himself on.

“In the classroom, I am driven by a passion to inspire and nurture students, and make the learning process an interactive, interesting, and rewarding experience for the students. Outside the classroom, I mentor students, with compassion and respect’ ” he said. “I believe that while mentoring students, it is critically important to strike the right balance between helping them to make optimal choices in their work and at the same time providing them with enough freedom and encouragement to conduct study and research on their own.”

To achieve this, Zhang maintains an active research dialog and open interaction with the students by regularly meeting with them and maintaining an open-door policy. He cultivates students’ skills in written and oral communication, critical thinking, inductive and deductive reasoning, creativity, and open-mindedness, but also provide students with positive work experiences that set a standard for future work-based relationships.

“After spending time in teaching and mentoring the students, it is extremely rewarding for me to see them mature and grow,” he says.

Zhang earned a B.S. in Polymer Materials and Engineering in 1997 and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2001, both from Zhejiang University, China. His research interests focus on nanostructured and multifunctional polymer, composite, fiber, and textile materials with an emphasis on practical applications: energy storage and conversion, chemical and biological protection, and composites. His research encompasses both fundamental materials studies such as synthesis and physical characterization, as well as system design and fabrication.

Zhang has received more than $7 million dollars of research funding from the U.S. government, foundations and industry. He has published two books, seven book chapters and more than 170 peer-reviewed journal articles. He has also delivered over 200 presentations in international and national conferences.

Recently, Zhang received Distinguished Achievement Award in Fiber Science (The Fiber Society, 2015). He is also the recipient of the  Outstanding Service Award (Sigma XI Society – Scientific Research Society, 2015); an Inaugural University Faculty Scholar Award (NC State, 2013); the Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award (NC State, 2013); and an Outstanding Teacher Award (NC State, 2013).