Yang named 2020 IEEE Fellow

Lan Yang

Lan Yang, the Edwin H. & Florence G. Skinner Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named an IEEE Fellow.

Yang, an internationally renowned professor of electrical & systems engineering in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, is recognized for her contributions to optical sensing and non-Hermitian photonics. The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. The total number selected in any one year cannot exceed one-tenth of 1 percent of the total voting membership. IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.

Yang's team works on fabrication, characterization and fundamental understanding of advanced nano/micro-photonic devices with outstanding optical properties or novel features for unconventional control of light flow. Her group has demonstrated the first on-chip micro-resonator-based particle sensors that can achieve not only detection but also size measurement of single nanoparticles one by one. In the past few years, her research discoveries in non-Hermitian physics has led to new strategies to enhance the performance of photonic systems, such as exceptional-point enhanced sensing.

Yang's lab develops high-quality optical resonators for sensing applications. Initially using the resonators for ultrasensitive detection of physical matters, she has most recently used the resonators, known as Whispering-Gallery-Mode (WGM) resonators, to detect infrared radiation. WGM resonators trap light in a manner similar to a phenomenon found in the gallery spaces of St. Paul's Cathedral dome in London, where a single whisper can be heard along the circular boundary of the architecture.

In her Micro/Nano Photonics Research lab, Yang and her students found the WGM resonator not only a superior sensor for direct detection of subjects probed by light but also an excellent transducer to indirectly measure an object that could trigger changes in the resonator structure. In a collaboration with Igor Savukov, an expert at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Yang and her lab successfully demonstrated a new ultrasensitive magnetometer composed of an on-chip WGM resonator actuated by a micro-magnet. The high sensitivity, broad dynamic range and the small footprint of the chip-scale sensor makes the WGM magnetometer a promising candidate for magnetic sensing.

Recently, Yang has published results of novel research in the loss-gain phenomenon. She and her team were able to provide new schemes and techniques to engineer a physical system by controlling loss. Further, she invented a new technique to control lasing emissions from an on-chip microlaser. In addition, her team demonstrated for the first time the transfer of chaos between two largely detuned optical fields mediated by opto-mechanical effects in a high-quality micro-resonator.

Yang holds the most patents and disclosures of any female faculty member in the McKelvey School of Engineering. She has seven issued patents, eight pending patents and 25 invention disclosures, a formal indication that a researcher has invented something novel, the first step in the patent process.

Yang is a fellow of The Optical Society and is editor-in-chief of Photonics Research. In 2015, she received the Chancellor's Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Washington University. In 2010, she earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and in 2011, she was honored by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The early career award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. She joined the Washington University faculty in 2007.

Yang earned a doctorate and a master's from California Institute of Technology in 2005 and 2000, respectively; and master's and bachelor's degrees from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1999 and 1997, respectively.


The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 140 full-time faculty, 1,387 undergraduate students, 1,448 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.