Cover photo for Yaoping Zhang's Obituary
Yaoping Zhang Profile Photo
1962 Yaoping 2024

Yaoping Zhang

May 27, 1962 — March 20, 2024


Yaoping Zhang, age 61, passed away on March 20, 2024, after a courageous battle with kidney cancer. He was born in Taicang, Jiangsu province in China, the son of Runde Zhang and Alian Shen. He married Lin Rao on March 29, 1989 in Beijing, China. Together they had three children, Helen, Julia, and Luke.


Yaoping received his Ph.D in Microbiology from the Beijing Agriculture University in 1989. In 1989, he joined Dr. Robert Burris’s laboratory at UW-Madison studying nitrogen fixation for his post-doctorate research. Yaoping continued studying nitrogen fixation in photosynthetic bacterium at Dr. Gary Robert’s laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Paul Ludden from 1993 to 2011. From 2011 to the present, he led the Experimental Fermentation Lab, one of the core facilities at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). Yaoping enjoyed the research he conducted at UW and throughout his three decades of persistent dedication and hard work, he published nearly 70 academic papers in several highly regarded journals, as well as served as a review editor for a few journals.


Throughout his life, Yaoping exemplified unwavering love and dedication to his family.  He was a source of wisdom, guidance, and endless support. He was very proud of his three children and cherished every moment spent with them. His unconditional love and steady presence will forever remain in their hearts.


In his spare time, he enjoyed watching movies, drinking tea, playing sudoku, and practicing Qi Gong/Tai Chi. At home, he enjoyed cooking and playing card games with his children. He possessed a passion for photography and an adventurous spirit and was always eager to explore new places and experiences. He was a proud Badger at heart and took pride in showing friends and family around town when they visited.


Though Yaoping has left this world, his memory will forever be cherished by his family and friends. His legacy of love, compassion, and integrity will continue to inspire those fortunate enough to have known him.


Yaoping was preceded in death by his parents, Runde Zhang and Alian Shen, and his half-sister, Huijuan Zhang. He is survived by his wife, Lin Rao, and his children Helen, Julia, and Luke. He is further survived by his sister Caijuan Ma; his half-sisters Baoying Xue, Renying Yu, and Jinya Gong; his half-brothers Yaohua Zhang, and Kunyuan Xue; and countless other extended family members and friends.


Visitation will be held at the Cress Center, 6021 University Avenue on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 from 9 - 11 a.m. Service will begin at 11 a.m. Yaoping's service will be live streamed. Please click on the following link:


A special thank you to the staff of UW Hospital Carbone Cancer Center for the care they provided to him. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Yaoping's honor to an Edvest education fund (Ugift code: 35U-37R) established to help support Luke's future college education ( 

Memorials may also be made to the UW Hospital Carbone Cancer Center (


We welcome you to share your memories of Yaoping here on his Tribute Wall. 

Cress Center

6021 University Ave. Madison

(608) 238-8406

To send flowers to the family in memory of Yaoping Zhang, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

9:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

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Celebration of Life

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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