JC Zhao Receives J. Willard Gibbs Phase Equilibria Award

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Dr. JC Zhao, Clark Distinguished Chair Professor and Chair of the Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Department at University of Maryland – College Park (UMD), received the 2023 J. Willard Gibbs Phase Equilibria Award at the ASM Awards Dinner on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.

The Gibbs Award was established in 2007 by ASM International to recognize outstanding contributions to the field of phase equilibria. The award honors J. Willard Gibbs, one of America’s greatest theoretical scientists, who laid the thermodynamics foundations of phase equilibria with his brilliant essay, “On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances,” published in 1876 and 1878 in the Transactions of the Connecticut Academy.

Zhao’s citation reads: For developing highly efficient methods that employ combinatorial principles, and successfully applying them to the determination of phase diagrams, diffusion coefficients, and physical properties in alloy systems.

“It is truly a great honor for me to receive this award that is named after my biggest professional hero, J. Willard Gibbs,” said Zhao. “Gibbsian thermodynamics is the tool that I used most to guide alloy design and process optimization.” Zhao was credited for being the first who introduced the computational thermodynamics software Thermo-Calc to the GE Research Center more than 25 years ago when he worked at GE from 1995 to 2007.

In order to more effectively collect the essential input data to feed the computational thermodynamic models, Zhao developed the diffusion-multiple approach and co-developed efficient methods to extract phase diagrams and materials properties for a large number of alloy systems. He was recognized with the prestigious Gibbs Award for these contributions. 

After joining academia, Zhao has taught graduate-level thermodynamics core courses for many years to materials science students. Before he became the UMD MSE department chair, he also taught hands-on computational thermodynamic courses to show students how to use Thermo-Calc to solve problems in complex alloys. Moreover, Zhao developed a double-square scheme [https://doi.org/10.1557/mrs2009.26] to help student remember fundamental thermodynamic equations. His scheme is now used by many universities around the world.

“I am very grateful to my students and collaborators who contributed substantially to the research and development that led to this recognition and the real-world impact,” said Zhao. “I am also indebted to my wife Felica Fang for her support for the past 32 years.”

In addition to this Gibbs Award, Zhao recently won a series of prestigious recognitions including being inducted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Published October 18, 2023