Zhen Lei

Directory Info

Zhen Lei

Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics

125 Hosler Building


Biographical Sketch: 

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

Educational Background: 

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

Research Interests: 
  • 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
Active Research Projects: 

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. The geographic focus is the U.S. and China, the two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters in the world. One is a technological leader; the other is striving to catch up in technology innovation.

His first research line has focused on how government policies and institutions impact innovation; the second has investigated not only innovation and patenting but also incentives, strategies and policy responses of firms in industries related to 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 measure and quantify innovation activities and knowledge flows.

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 and Energy Journal, in top field economics journals including Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, and in top data science conferences such as IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM) and ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM). 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).  

Selected Publications: 
  1. Zhen Lei and Brian D. Wright, “Why Weak Patents? Testing the Examiner Ignorance Hypothesis,” Journal of Public Economics, 2017, 148, 43-56.
  2. Daniel R. Cahoy, Zhen Lei, Yuxi Meng and Seth Blumsack, “Global Patent Chokepoints,” Stanford Technology Law Review, forthcoming, 2017.
  3. Zhen Lei, Chen-Hao Tsai and Andrew N. Kleit, “Deregulation and Firm Investment Incentives: Evidence from Nuclear Power Uprates,” Energy Journal, forthcoming, 2017.
  4. Maoyong Fan, Zhen Lei and Gordon Liu, “Discounting of Medical Saving Accounts,” American Journal of Health Economics, 2016, 2(2): 161-183.
  5. 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.
  6. Drivas, Kyriakos, Zhen Lei, Steve Merrill and Brian D. Wright, “Technology Transfer: Industry-funded Academic Inventions Boost Innovation,” Nature, 2014, 507, 297-299.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Shuting Wang, Zhen Lei and Wang-Chien Lee, “Exploring Legal Patent Citations for Patent Valuation,” The ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2014), 1379-1388,Shanghai, China, November 2014.

EBF 200 – Introduction to Energy and Earth Sciences Economics (3)
EBF 401 – Strategic Corporate Finance for the Earth, Energy, and Materials Industries (3)
EBF 484 – Energy Economics (3)
ENNEC 560 – Technology, Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights (3)