Professor Kehe Zhu Becomes UAlbany's First AMS Fellow

Professor of Mathematics Kehe Zhu stands next to an equation on a whiteboard.
Professor of Mathematics Kehe Zhu has been named fellow of the American Mathematical Society, the first ever professor at UAlbany to receive the distinction. (Photos by Patrick Dodson)

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 18, 2024) — UAlbany Professor of Mathematics Kehe Zhu has been named fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the first professor at the University at Albany to receive the distinction. The honor recognizes members who have made “outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics.”

Growing up in Hunan, China, Zhu, who wanted to become a scientist, was one of the first group of students who were able to go to college after China’s “Cultural Revolution” ended. The movement, enacted by Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, interrupted college admissions for 10 years within the country.

“My aspiration then was to become a lab-based scientist, so I put down ‘Chemistry’ on my college application. But I was assigned to the mathematics major by the administration based on my high math score on the entrance exam,” said Zhu.

It was common practice at that time, and as Zhu describes it, he had nothing to complain about.

A row of mathematics books authored by Kehe Zhu sit on a bookshelf.
Kehe Zhu has 11,394 citations on Google Scholar, by far the most of any mathematics professor at UAlbany and among the highest in the nation.

“I excelled in college as a math major, even won the first place during a provincial math competition for college students. China opened up soon after and I was able to come to the United States for graduate studies,” said Zhu, who earned his PhD in mathematics in 1986 from the University at Buffalo.

Each year the AMS selects 30 to 40 mathematicians from around the world as fellows, based primarily on research accomplishment but also taking into consideration other contributions to the profession. The selection is initiated by nomination by current fellows and goes through a rigorous multi-step process.

“I was thrilled to learn that I was selected an AMS Fellow for the 2024 class, especially when it was the first such honor for UAlbany. I hope and I am sure that UAlbany will see more of its math faculty becoming AMS fellows,” said Zhu. “I hope my selection as an AMS fellow will in some way increase the international visibility of the UAlbany research program in mathematics.”

“Dr. Zhu is well deserving of this honor,” said UAlbany Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol H. Kim. “He has made standout contributions to the field of mathematics. While his gifts are singular, they are also representative of the excellence of UAlbany’s Department of Mathematics. We celebrate his accomplishment and applaud his success.”

“This is indeed a singular achievement and we are most proud of Professor Zhu and the many fine contributions he has made to fields in mathematics,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeanette Altarriba. “The College of Arts and Sciences views this accomplishment with the highest regard, and we are grateful for his work within our College that furthers our research, teaching and service missions.”

“Professor Zhu's impressive number of citations, 11,394 on Google Scholar, is the uncontested proof of the immeasurable impact his work has in mathematics,” said Cristian Lenart, professor and chair of Mathematics and Statistics at UAlbany. “Kehe establishes an unparalleled legacy through his work and sets up an example for us, his mathematician colleagues. Our department is thrilled and honored to have a colleague of his caliber, and we wholeheartedly applaud his unique and well-deserved recognition.”

Zhu’s areas of research are complex analysis and functional analysis, two key subjects of modern pure mathematics.

“Specifically, I study spaces of analytic functions and bounded linear operators acting on such spaces,” said Zhu. “These subjects are widely used in physics, engineering and many other fields.”

Well-known examples include applications of the Fourier transform in many areas of science, the application of functional analysis in quantum physics, and the application of complex analysis to Shannon sampling in signal process.

Zhu has published seven monographs and 135 papers in these areas. His research was supported by the National Science Foundation for many years. He also won the 2007 UAlbany President’s Award for Excellence in Research. He’s currently the editor-in-chief of the New York Journal of Mathematics and has been on the editorial board of several international journals.

After receiving his PhD, Zhu spent a few years at the University of Washington and the University of Waterloo as a postdoctoral researcher before joining UAlbany in January 1989 as a tenure-track assistant professor. He moved through the ranks quickly, becoming full professor in 1995.

“My family and I enjoyed living in the Capital Region and I am grateful to UAlbany for offering me the opportunity to do research and teach students at all levels,” said Zhu, who now calls Guilderland, N.Y., his home, where he and his wife raised two sons.

Zhu sees the United States as the undisputed leader in mathematics research, which is the basis for many other areas in science and engineering, both pure and applied. "Fellows of the AMS represent the face of American mathematical research,” said Zhu, noting the role that AMS should continue to play in advancing the study of mathematics in the United States now and in the future.