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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

New Jersey Institute of Technology Professor Helps Companies Solve Production Problems Using Petri Nets

Manufacturers use his ideas to design robots and processes to streamline production. Computer companies use his ideas to make better software. Other firms use his ideas to build environmentally sound products.

He is Mengchu Zhou, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Zhou is one of the nation’s leading developers of Petri nets – mathematical and graphic modeling tools used in automated production systems, software design, information systems, transportation systems and computer networks. Designers and analysts use Petri nets to model, implement and operate various event-driven systems.

Zhou has been recognized nationally for his breakthrough research.  He recently received the Outstanding Contribution Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society. The award recognized his contributions as general co-chair of the IEEE International Conference on Networking, Sensing and Control, held recently in Taiwan.  In January 2003, Zhou was elected an IEEE Fellow for his contributions to Petri nets and their applications. Being elected a Fellow is the Institute's highest grade of membership.

Zhou has spent the last 18 years extending Petri net theory and applying it to manufacturing systems. Information-technology specialists at Microsoft consider Zhou’s Petri nets a mandatory part of system engineering documentation. One of Zhou’s papers, “Petri nets and Industrial Applications: A Tutorial,” IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics (Dec.1994), is considered required reading for novice computer analysts.

Companies use Zhou’s theory to evaluate procedures for building environmental impacts into the design and manufacture of new products. Using his tools, project managers can envision the effect their products will have on the environment, starting from raw material, through production, disposal, recycling and reuse. His tools thus allow the firms to design and make products that will not harm the environment.

His ideas have also helped companies design and develop automated-guided vehicle systems – small mobile vehicles and robots that can carry loads in manufacturing centers. And semiconductor firms use his Petri net approach to improve the productivity of cluster tools, instruments used in the manufacture of semiconductor chips.

Zhou, who also directs the Laboratory for Discrete Event Systems at NJIT, has published five books, 12 book chapters, 60 peer-reviewed journal papers, and more than 130 conference proceeding papers. Zhou’s awards include the Engineering Foundation Research Initiation Award (1991); National Science Foundation Research Initiation Award (1994); Humboldt Research Award for U.S. Senior Scientists, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany (2000); and the Academic Achievement Award, Chinese Association for Science & Technology (2001).

NJIT, New Jersey's science and technology university, enrolls approximately 10,000 students pursuing bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 120 programs. The university consists of six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, College of Architecture and Design, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, College of Computing Sciences and Albert Dorman Honors College. U.S. News & World Report's 2012 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT in the top tier of national research universities. NJIT is internationally recognized for being at the edge in knowledge in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and e-learning. Many courses and certificate programs, as well as graduate degrees, are available online through the Division of Continuing Professional Education.