The announcement came Monday afternoon in an email from Ian Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “Professor Chen’s leadership, vision, dedication and strong sense of community will keep the department on its path of excellence and help it flourish in the days ahead,” Waitz wrote. “Please join me in congratulating Gang on this appointment. He will be an excellent leader for MechE and I very much look forward to working with him.”
A member of the MIT faculty since 2001, Chen succeeds Mary Boyce, who had served as department head since 2009 and who is now dean of engineering and applied science at Columbia University.
“I am deeply grateful to former Department Head, Professor Mary Boyce … and Associate Department Head, Professor Gareth McKinley, for their exceptional leadership. They have set the department on a marvelous trajectory,” Waitz wrote.
As the director of MIT’s Pappalardo Micro and Nano Engineering Laboratory, Chen is internationally recognized for his contributions to nanoscale transport and energy-conversion phenomena. His work in nanoscale heat-conduction physics has led to significant advances in thermoelectric materials and in their application to converting solar energy and waste heat into electricity.
Chen has served on the editorial and advisory boards of nine journals; as advisory board chair of the ASME Nano Institute; and has co-founded two companies, including GMZ Energy Inc., a maker of thermoelectric materials. He has also led several large research programs, including the first U.S. Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative on thermoelectric materials. Currently, he directs the Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Chen’s numerous awards include an ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award; R&D magazine’s 100 Award, which recognizes top technology products; and the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising. Additionally, Chen is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of ASME, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Chen was an assistant professor at Duke University from 1993 until 1997, when he took a tenured faculty position at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 2001, Chen made the move to MIT as a tenured associate professor of mechanical engineering.
Chen has published more than 280 technical articles and wrote the book Nanoscale Energy Transfer and Conversion: A Parallel Treatment of Electrons, Molecules, Phonons, and Photons (2005) — the first textbook in the field. He also has more than 30 patents granted or pending.
Chen earned his bachelor’s (1984) and master’s (1986) degrees in power engineering from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China; he earned his PhD in mechanical engineering in 1993 from the University of California at Berkeley.