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Zhen Lei

Zhen Lei

Office Address: 
125 Hosler Building
Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics
PDF icon Curriculum Vitae (78.68 KB)
  • Technology and Science Policy
  • Economics of Innovation, Intellectual Property Policy and Entrepreneurship
  • Energy and Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Big Data and Data Mining
  • Applied Economics
  • Ph.D. (Agricultural and Resource Economics), University of California at Berkeley, 2009
  • Ph.D. (Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences), Peking University Health Sciences Center, 2000
  • M.S. (Organic Chemistry), Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1997
  • B.S. (Chemistry), Wuhan University, 1993
Courses Taught: 
  • EBF 401 – Strategic Corporate Finance for the Earth, Energy, and Materials Industries (3)
  • EBF 484 – Energy Economics (3)
  • EBF 473 – Risk Management in the Earth Sciences (3)
  • EBF 497 – Special Topic: Technology Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights (3)
  • ENNEC 560 – Empirical Energy and Environmental Economics (3)
John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering


Zhen Lei is currently an Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at Penn State University.  He has expertise in both economics and natural sciences, holding a Ph.D. degree in Economics and a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. His research interests include energy and environmental economics, science and technology policy, economics of innovation and intellectual properties, big data and data science, health economics, industrial organization, development economics, and applied econometrics.

Research Interests:

Dr. Lei’s research program has three major themes: (1) technology and innovation policy and intellectual property rights; (2) energy and environmental economics and policy;  and (3) big data and data sciences.

His first research line has focused on how government policies and institutions impact innovation; the second has investigated firm strategies (including innovation), individual behaviors and health related to industries in energy, the environment and critical materials; and the third has applied techniques in big data sciences, in particular data mining and information retrieval tools, to study innovation, environmental and health.

Zhen Lei has published papers in top general journals such as Nature and Nature Biotechnology, in top economics field journals including Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Journal of Public Economics and Energy Journal, and in top information and data science journals and conferences such as Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM) and ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM), and top technology law journals including Stanford Technology Law Review. His research has been supported by research grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

  •  Zhen Lei and Chen-Hao Tsai, “Market Deregulation and Nuclear Safety,” Energy Economics,  forthcoming.
  • Huanguang Qiu, Jianbiao Yan, Zhen Lei and Dingqiang Sun, “Rising Wages and Energy Consumption Transition in Rural China,” Energy Policy, 2018, 119, 545-553.
  • Zhongyang He, Zhen Lei and Dashun Wang, “Modeling Citation Dynamics of ‘Atypical’ Papers,” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 2018, 69(9), 1148-1160.
  • Kyriakos Drivas, Zhen Lei and Brian Wright, “Application Publication or Confirmation of Grant: Which Matters More for Academic Technology Transfer?” International Journal of Industrial Organization, 2018, 56, 204-228.
  • Kyriakos Drivas, Zhen Lei and Brian Wright, “Academic Patent Licenses: Roadblocks or Signposts for Nonlicensee Cumulative Innovation?” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2017, 137, 282-303.
  •  Zhen Lei and Brian D. Wright, “Why Weak Patents? Testing the Examiner Ignorance Hypothesis,” Journal of Public Economics, 2017, 148, 43-56.
  • Daniel R. Cahoy, Zhen Lei, Yuxi Meng and Seth Blumsack, “Global Patent Chokepoints,” Stanford Technology Law Review, 2017, 20, 213-244.
  • Zhen Lei, Chen-Hao Tsai and Andrew N. Kleit, “Deregulation and Firm Investment Incentives: Evidence from Nuclear Power Uprates,” Energy Journal, 2017, 38, 113-139.
  • Tao-Yang Fu, Wang-Chien Lee, and Zhen Lei, “HIN2Vec: Explore Meta-paths in Heterogeneous Information Networks for Representation Learning,” ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2017), 1797-1806, Singapore, November 2017.
  • Maoyong Fan, Zhen Lei and Gordon Liu, “Discounting of Medical Saving Accounts,” American Journal of Health Economics, 2016, 2(2): 161-183.
  • Tao-Yang Fu, Zhen Lei, and Wang-Chien Lee, “Modeling Knowledge Diffusion with Time Lags in Citation Networks.” IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, (ICDM 2016), 865-870, Barcelona, Spain, December 2016.
  •  Zhen Lei and Anastasia V. Shcherbakova, “Revealing Climate Change Opinions Through Investment Behavior: Evidence from Fukushima,” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2015, 70, 92-108.
  • Tao-Yang Fu, Zhen Lei, and Wang-Chien Lee, “Patent Citation Recommendation for Examiners.” IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, (ICDM 2015), 751-756, Atlantic City, NJ, November 2015.
  • Drivas, Kyriakos, Zhen Lei, Steve Merrill and Brian D. Wright, “Technology Transfer: Industry-funded Academic Inventions Boost Innovation,” Nature, 2014, 507, 297-299.
  • Shuting Wang, Zhen Lei and Wang-Chien Lee, “Exploring Legal Patent Citations for Patent Valuation,” ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2014), 1379-1388, Shanghai, China, November 2014.
  • Graff, Gregory D., Devon Phillips, Zhen Lei, Sooyoung Oh, Carol Nottenburg, and Philip G. Pardey. “Not Quite a Myriad of Gene Patents: Assessing the Potential Impact of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Changing Landscape of U.S. Patents that Claim Nucleic Acids,” Nature Biotechnology, 2013, 31(5), 404-410.
  •  Daniel R. Cahoy, Joel Gehman and Zhen Lei, “Fracking Patents: The Emergence of Patents as Information Containment Tools in Shale Drilling,” Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review, 2013, 19(2), 279-330.
  • Zhen Lei, Rakhi Juneja and Brian Wright, “Patents vs. Patenting: Implications of Intellectual Property Protection for Biological Research”, Nature Biotechnology, 2009, 27(1), 36-40.

For a full list of publications, please view the CV.