Zhifeng Ren Receives UH’s Farfel Award

Award Represents University’s Highest Faculty Honor

Zhifeng Ren is the 2024 recipient of the University of Houston’s highest faculty honor, the Esther Farfel Award.

Zhifeng Ren

Ren, UH’s Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Chair in Condensed Matter Physics, was recognized for his excellence in research, scholarship, teaching and service. At UH, he serves as director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH (TcSUH).

He has garnered international acclaim for his work in high performance thermoelectric materials; catalysts for water splitting; nanosheets for enhanced oil recovery, solar energy conversion; flexible transparent electrodes; and carbon nanotubes and nanocomposites.

He is consistently listed among Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers with published papers ranking in the top 1% of citations for field and publication year.

In 2022, his expertise was key in demonstrating cubic boron arsenide as “one of best semiconductors known to science.” This discovery was named one of the year’s Top 10 Breakthroughs by Physics World magazine.

“Receiving the Farfel Award increases the pressure for more success,” Ren said. “Now that I finally earned this award, I am inspired to work even harder—but more importantly smarter—to contribute more to UH and further improve the status of the University.”

Other honors include the Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas; the Humboldt Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; and a Distinguished Senior Research Award from Boston College. In 2018, he received a UH Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity.

He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Materials Research Society, American Physical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As a scholar, Ren has authored or contributed to more than 630 published articles and papers. He serves as the founding editor-in-chief for one of the top journals, Materials Today Physics, and was the founding editor-in-chief for Soft Science. He is also a member of several editorial boards, including Materials Today, Research, npj Quantum materials, and Progress in Physics.

Ren’s research has been featured in the media, including a collaborative effort to create an air filter that traps and kills COVID-19 and the use of superconductors for highway and rail transportation.

He arrived at UH in 2013 after being recruited by TcSUH Founding Director Paul C. W. Chu. A decade after being sought by the longtime UH researcher and superconductivity pioneer, Ren delivered the inaugural Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Lecture.

Ren joins an elite group of UH faculty members who have received the Farfel Award. This honor has been presented annually since 1979 and honors the memory of Esther Farfel, wife of longtime UH System Board of Regents Chair Aaron Farfel.

- Mike Emery, University Marketing and Communications