by Nicole Capozziello
Published December 16, 2019
Since childhood, Jun Zhuang has been drawn to disaster movies. Whether it was the world being turned upside-down by a sudden earthquake or the impending catastrophe of a flood, he was mesmerized not just by the things going wrong but by all the people who were trying to fix it.
“In those movies, there is a hero, but there are also a lot of other people who are making decisions to make things better,” says Zhuang, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Being one of the people “making things better,” often behind-the-scenes, is what Zhuang has dedicated his life to, both professionally and personally.
Recently, Zhuang was recognized for his dedication and compassion by the Buffalo Business First Journal when he was named one of their 2019 40 Under 40 Honorees. The annual awards, now in their 28th year, honor 40 rising leaders from across sectors for their professional success and community involvement.
“Jun’s recognition serves as a proud example of the tremendous impact our faculty members make on the many communities we serve, locally and globally,” says University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi, who noted that 16 UB graduates made this year’s distinguished 40 Under 40 list.
“Jun has been nothing short of an outstanding faculty member in our department since he arrived 11 years ago,” says Victor Paquet, professor and chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “He excels in all aspects of his work – in scholarship, teaching and mentorship, and service. It is truly an honor to work with such a talented and accomplished faculty member who has contributed significantly to Western New York through his generous volunteer service to the community.”
With the success he has experienced in his still-early career, Zhuang is ever-grateful to the many people who have helped him along the way. “It’s really important to me to give back what I’ve been given,” says Zhuang, who is dedicated to service at all levels: to society, to his department, to his community, and to individuals.
As an operations research engineer, Zhuang integrates his work in data analytics, game theory, and decision analysis to solve real-world issues related to natural and man-made disasters. His work in the field of homeland security in particular has led to his recognition as a leader on the issue, both nationally and internationally.
His passion and hard work have translated to an exceptional publication record and wide-ranging research impact; Zhuang has authored over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, and his research has been highlighted by major news sources across the country, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Zhuang is also passionate about sharing his work in the classroom and research lab. “As a professor and advisor, Jun goes far beyond expectations –and you can see it in the large number and diversity of students he’s advised, and all of their accomplishments,” says Paquet. Zhuang enjoys getting to help students optimize their talent and skills to improve society, working with many of them over a period of years.
Within both the school and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Zhuang lives his value of service; he is a member of SEAS Promotion Committee and SEAS Faculty Awards Committee, and a former member of SEAS Tenure Committee. He is the chair of the ISE Faculty Awards Committee, and former director of ISE Undergraduate Studies. He also chaired the ISE Strategic Planning Committees on Infrastructure Development and Department Reputation and Pride.
In 2018, Zhuang was inspired to start the ISE Faculty Brown Bag Seminar, a lunch that brings members of the department together to learn about each other’s research, or other innovative ideas they have around teaching or scholarship. Thus far, the seminar, which Zhuang puts on about five times a semester, has been immensely popular.
Zhuang is also a husband and father of three. He is active in his local church communities. He has been an elected board member of the Western New York District of the Wesleyan Church since 2014 and active in Eastern Hills Wesleyan Chinese Church since 2008, where he leads fellowships and singspiration, plays piano, and helps with translation.
Zhuang sees himself as being part of a constant cycle of giving, one that feeds him and benefits others around him. “I hope that by winning this award, I will inspire others to succeed in their career and get more involved in their community,” says Zhuang.
Zhuang’s past awards at UB include: the 2019-20 Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award, the 2019 Exemplary Faculty/Staff Mentor Award, the 2019 Exceptional Scholar Award- Sustained Achievement, the 2018 SEAS Senior Researcher of the Year Award, 2013 Exceptional Scholar - Young Investigator Award, and the 2012 President Emeritus and Mrs. Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Teaching and Mentoring. Other professional awards include the 2019 Chauncey Starr Distinguished Young Risk Analyst Award from the Society for Risk Analysis, the 2018 Volunteer Service Award from INFORMS, and the 2017 Koopman Prize from the INFORMS’ Military Applications Society.
Zhuang is the third faculty member from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering to be presented with this award. Previous winners were Rakesh Nagi in 2004 (Nagi has since left UB) and Ann Bisantz in 2007. Zhuang and the other 2019 honorees were celebrated at a Nov. 22 luncheon at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.