Zhao receives AGU Global Environmental Change Early Career Award


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Lei Zhao
Lei Zhao

CEE Assistant Professor Lei Zhao was announced as the 2023 recipient of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Global Environmental Change Early Career Award. Presented annually, the award recognizes outstanding contributions in research, educational or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change by honorees within 10 years of receiving their Ph.D. or highest terminal degree.

Zhao joined the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2018. His research concerns the physical and engineering processes in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer where most human activities and environmental systems are concentrated, with a particular focus on built surfaces and urban environments. He combines theory, numerical modeling, remote sensing and in situ observations, and cutting-edge machine learning methods to study environmental fluid mechanics and land-atmosphere dynamics that relate to urban environments, urban climatology and hydrology, climate change, climate impacts and adaptation. Zhao is affiliated with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment. 

“I am truly humbled and honored to receive such a prestigious award,” Zhao said. “I highly appreciate AGU and the Global Environmental Change section for the recognition and, more importantly, for providing such a great international cross-fields platform to promote Earth and space sciences and support global communities continuously for over 100 years. I feel very lucky and deeply encouraged. 

“This award is never a single-person result; I sincerely appreciate all the wonderful people that I have collaborated with and all the brilliant young talents of my research group. This award reminds me of all the giants in science that I have the luck to meet and engage with. I hope I can transmit some of their great minds and values to my group and younger generations. 

“This award will continuously encourage me, like all previous honorees as role models, to work hard on advancing the science and technology that shape a better Earth’s future. I hope that, through our group’s work, we could contribute to ensure future cities resilient, sustainable, and livable for people to flourish.”

AGU is the world's largest Earth and space science association. Honorees will be recognized at AGU23, which will convene more than 25,000 attendees from over 100 countries in San Francisco and online everywhere December 11-15, 2023. This celebration is a chance for AGU’s community to recognize the outstanding work of its colleagues and be inspired by their accomplishments and stories. 

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This story was published September 14, 2023.