Space engineer George Zhu named inaugural Research Commons academic director

wrd art for new grant recipients

The Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation (VPRI) has announced that Professor Zheng Hong (George) Zhu, Lassonde School of Engineering, has accepted the role of inaugural Research Commons academic director. The position began on Aug. 19 and is a one-year term with possible renewal.

George Zhu
George Zhu

Zhu is a professor and Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Lassonde School of Engineering. As a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Space Technology, Zhu is currently leading the DESCENT (DEorbiting SpaceCraft using ElectrodyNamic Tethers) Cubesat mission – Canada’s first space debris removal technology demonstration mission – to be launched in 2019. His research interests touch on a number of topics, including the dynamics and control of tethered spacecraft systems, electrodynamic tether propulsion and space debris removal, space robotics and advanced spacecraft materials. This has resulted in more than 140 peer-reviewed publications.

“York University and the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation are delighted that Professor Zhu is leading this new initiative,” said Rui Wang, interim vice-president research and innovation. “His scholarly track record, exemplifying interest in the pedagogy of building a research program and expertise with tri-council funding make him ideally suited for this new position.”

In this leadership role, Zhu will lead the creation of the Research Commons and help evolve its mission and mandate.

“Through strategic communication and consultation, he will work with VPRI to create the structure of the program and oversee the evolution of the offerings to initially provide support to early career scholars and then additional groups across the University,” said Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell, associate vice-president research, who has championed the Research Commons.

“I am exited to have the opportunity to work together with VPRI, the associate vice-presidents research, and research leaders of Faculties to develop York’s research pedagogy and deliver the much-needed support to our researchers,” said Zhu.

Working closely with Zhu will be VPRI’s Emma Yuen, who assumed the position of Research Commons operations manager on July 29. She comes to this new role with nine years of experience working at York, particularly in the functions of operations and communications co-ordination, budget planning and financial management, and human resources and health and safety administration, which directly align with the responsibilities of this new position.

As operations manager, Yuen will be responsible for co-ordinating the launch of the program and project activities of the Research Commons and for supporting the academic director. She will manage the implementation and administration of the Research Commons, support the execution of its curriculum and workshops, and ensure appropriate procedures and infrastructures are in place. 

Emma Yuen

The Research Commons is a formal research grant development and mentorship system designed to prepare faculty for research granting success. It comprises a group of seasoned researchers and sector-leading research staff members who will collaborate to support research intensity across campus.

The major emphases in the first year will be to increase tri-council grant applications and success through a supportive skills and mentoring program for new faculty members to York University. Over time, the offerings of the Research Commons will evolve under the vision of the academic director and their team of academic and staff leaders. The goal will be to build supports for other key junctures in the research grant development cycle.

For more information, contact Emma Yuen at