Lei Zuo, professor of mechanical engineering, professor of electrical and computer engineering (by courtesy), and director of the NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named the Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Robert E. Hord Jr. Professorship of Mechanical Engineering was established by a gift from the late Robert E. Hord Jr., who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree the following year, both from the College of Engineering. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Virginia Tech’s chemical and mechanical engineering programs.

The professorship acknowledges and rewards faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who have shown exceptional merit in research, teaching, and/or service. Recipients hold the position for a five-year term.

As a member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2014, Zuo’s scholarship has focused on the design, dynamics, control, and manufacturing of energy systems. Applications for these studies have contributed to developments in marine renewable energy, vehicles and transportation, smart structures, and self-powered sensors.

Zuo has contributed to 120 journal articles and 170 conference papers, including six selected as best paper and three as best student paper. He has secured $15.6 million in research grants from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, Department of Transporation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, United States Army, national labs, Virginia and New York state agencies, and industry. Zuo has advised 15 Ph.D. candidates and 40 master's students to completion of their degrees, and mentored more than 10 postdocs. He has also mentored more than 160 undergraduates in research and 13 high school students.

Zuo has received numerous awards for his research, including the 2017 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Leonardo Da Vinci Award for “eminent achievement in the design or invention of a product which is universally recognized as an important advance in machine design,” and the 2015 ASME Thar Energy Design Award for “pioneering research in energy engineering, especially at large energy scale.” He also received R&D 100 Awards in 2011 and 2015, recognizing the 100 most significant technology innovations worldwide for those years. He was the recipient of the 2014 Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award from the Society of Automobile Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency P3 awards in 2014 and 2019, and Department of Energy American-Made Challenges Prizes in 2019 and 2020. In 2016, he was named as a fellow of ASME and was appointed as John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow.

Zou has served as the chair of the ASME Technical Committee on Mechatronics, the Committee on Vehicle Design, and the Committee on Energy Harvesting. He was also named the new initiative subcommittee chair of ASME Technical Committee on Vibration and Sound, and has served as one of the two general chairs for ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, and conference and program chair/co-chair of several other conferences. He has been the technical editor of IEEE/ASME Transaction on Mechatronics, associate editor of ASME Journal of Vibration and Acoustics, associate editor of Mechatronics, and guest editor of Acta Mechanica Sinica.

Zou received his bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua University (Beijing) and two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.