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Professor Earns Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Dr. Wei Zhang honored for efforts to reduce structural damage from wind storms

Dr. Wei Zhang, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Cleveland State University, has been selected to receive the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, the highest recognition NSF gives to early-career faculty. The award includes a five-year grant to advance innovative research to address the nation’s grand challenges, while also providing mentoring and training to develop the next generation of higher education leaders.

“The NSF CAREER program is highly competitive and only awarded to the top early-career researchers in the nation,” says Jerzy Sawicki, vice president for research at CSU. “This announcement exemplifies the excellence and dedication of our faculty, and I would like to personally congratulate Professor Zhang for this tremendous accomplishment.”

Zhang, will conduct fluid mechanics research to understand the physics of conical vortices, or delta-wing vortices, that form around roof edges and corners of low-rise buildings during high winds. These vortices are a main factor in creating peak suction and can lead to roofs ripping off during tornados and hurricanes, initiating structural damage and significantly endangering bystanders. She will also explore nature-inspired designs that could be implemented into home construction to decrease the possibility of vortices and ultimately reduce damage and injury. She will receive $580,000 for the five-year project. 

“Post-disaster surveys have shown that the failure of roofs and roof coverings account for the majority of initial damage of low-rise buildings in hurricanes and tornadic winds. We still do not know enough about the specific factors that lead to these complicated vortices formed over roofs or the design adaptations that could best prevent them,” adds Zhang. “This project will seek to fill in the knowledge gaps, while utilizing exceptional examples in nature as models for creating novel engineering components to improve the resiliency of low-rise buildings and reduce the negative impacts of severe wind storms on the built environment.” 

As part of the project, Zhang will engage first-year engineering students in supporting her research efforts, providing significant hands-on learning opportunities and a better understanding of how engineering impacts society. Zhang’s research has previously been supported by the Office of Research at CSU and the Ohio Space Grant Consortium Faculty Research Seed fund. 

The Faculty Early Career Development Program was created by the National Science Foundation in 1994. It honors individuals who are working on cutting–edge scholarship with significant societal impact who also have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education in their institutions and nationally. For more information about the program, visit