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Principle Investigator


Yangying Zhu

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Postdoctoral scholar, Materials Science, Stanford University, 2017-2019

Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, M.I.T., 2017
M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, M.I.T
., 2013
B.S. in Building Technology, Tsinghua University., 2011

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2023  ONR Young Investigator Award

2022  NASA Early Career Faculty Award

2021  ASME Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal

2020  NSF CAREER Award

PhD students


Patrick Babb

Graduate student

 Patrick is a GEM fellow who received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from California State University, Fullerton in 2021. During his time at CSU Fullerton, he was a member of the 2019 NASA Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Team (Micro-g NExT) and the 2019 MITTIC program, both held at the Johnson Space Center. He also led the 2021 award winning university CubeSat Team. Patrick enjoys mentoring and serves as a mentor for the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship Foundation. His current research interests are in phase change heat transfer and desalination. Patrick joined Tfel in September 2021 and is working on passive water harvesting systems.



Natnael Fitsum

Graduate student

Natnael received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KU), UAE. He also obtained his Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Khalifa University with research focussed on Solar-driven Water Harvesting from Porous Media for In-situ Resource Utilization. Natnael joined TFEL in January 2024, and his research focus is on the suppression of flow boiling instability by using surface structures.


Vijay Kumar

Graduate student

Vijay received his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical and Automation Engineering from Amity University, India, in 2017. He then moved to the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Patna and earned his Master’ Degree in 2020. After his master’s, he worked as a Senior Research Fellow at IIT Patna. During his time at IIT Patna, Vijay has been working on phase change heat transfer in terrestrial and microgravity applications, and boiling acoustics. Vijay joined Tfel in July 2021 and is working on Raman characterization based the in-situ temperature measurements during phase change heat transfer.



Xichen Liang

Graduate student

Xichen received her bachelor’s degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the Ohio State University in 2018. During the time in OSU, she worked on electrocatalysis on carbon dioxide reduction with dye molecules catalyst in the lab of Professor Yiying Wu. Her current research focuses on using Raman characterization for understanding thermal and fluid transport during phase change.



Harsh Shah

Graduate student

Harsh joined after completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Patna (IIT Patna) in 2022. During his time at IIT Patna, He has been working on phase change heat transfer in terrestrial and microgravity applications which involved designing and fabricating a payload for ISRO. He also has worked on forecasting and classification of Boiling Crisis for Pool Boiling using LSTM-RNN. Harsh joined TFEL in July 2022 and is working on understanding the role of surface structures on flow boiling instabilities.


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Emily Spitaleri

Graduate student

Emily received her bachelor's degree in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Virginia Tech in 2021. During her time there, she concentrated her studies on fluid dynamics and spent her free time playing club rugby. Her current research interests are in the intersection of thermofluids and sustainable energy solutions. 


Harrison Szeto

Graduate student

Harrison received his BS in Chemistry from Santa Clara University in 2019. During his time at Santa Clara, he worked on solvent engineering of the active layer for lead halide perovskite solar cells in the labs of Professor Richard Barber and Professor Brian McNelis. His current research interests are focused on in situ and operando temperature measurements of lithium-ion cells.



Olivia Wander

Graduate student (co-advised by Prof. Raphaële Clément)

I grew up in Carrboro, North Carolina and studied at North Carolina State University, earning my BS in Materials Science and Engineering. I am excited to be getting back to my California roots while studying at UCSB. In my free time, I love to hike, work on learning a new language, or play beach volleyball.  Current project (co-advised by Prof. Raphaële Clément) involves in operando analysis of lithium growth in batteries with heterogeneous heating profiles. Smooth plating and dendritic/mossy lithium growth are compared using in operano techniques, including NMR and EPR.



Runqing Yang

Graduate student (co-advised by Prof. Bolin Liao)

Runqing earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2019. Since his junior year, he has been actively involved in theoretical research as an undergraduate researcher in UCSB TEALab, where he focused on advancing the field of phonon transport. He was honored with the Chancellor's Fellowship upon joining the Mechanical Engineering department. Runqing has recently become a member of the TFEL and his research interests include utilizing Transient Grating Spectroscopy (TGS) to study the freeze-thaw processes in Li-ion batteries.


Postdoctoral scholar


Hyunggon Park

Postdoctoral scholar

Hyunggon received his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech.  During his Ph.D., he worked on several research projects regarding drop impact on various surfaces, condensation frost, pool boiling, and de-icing.  Hyunggon joined Tfel in August 2022 and he is currently working on the thermal effect of additive manufacturing.


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Fanghao Zhang

Postdoctoral scholar

Fanghao obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Houston in 2022 under the supervision of Prof. Zhifeng Ren. While at UH, Fanghao worked on synthesizing amphiphilic Janus nanosheets for enhanced oil recovery and rational designs of efficient catalysts for seawater electrolysis using the strategy of surface modification. His current research topic at UCSB is the gas evolution and the thermal effect in the alkaline seawater electrolysis process and thermal properties measurements using PPMS.


Group Alumni


Lei Zhao

Postdoctoral scholar, Oct 2019 - Jan 2021

Lei received his Bachelor's Degree in Power, Energy Systems and Automation from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China in 2014. Then he moved to the department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and earned his Ph.D. in 2019. His doctoral research focused on understanding the dynamic and static behaviors of a three-phase contact line. His research interests involve micro/nano-fluidics, interfacial science, and phase change heat transfer.

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Farzad Ahmadi

Postdoctoral scholar, Oct 2020 - Oct 2021

Farzad received his B.S. and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from Azad University of Isfahan and Sharif University of Technology, respectively.  He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech in 2019.  After his Ph.D., he served as an instructor and a researcher at Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering departments at Virginia Tech.  Farzad has been working on the intersection of solid mechanics, fluid dynamics, phase-change heat transfers, synthetic biology, and materials science.  During his Ph.D., he has conducted several research projects on passive anti-icing technologies, freezing phenomena, jumping-droplet condensation, the dynamic wettability of natural organisms, and phase transitions of vehicular traffic flows.  Farzad joined Tfel in October 2020 and he is working on passive water harvesting systems.

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