475399 Biohybrid Materials for Applications in Human Healthcare and Sustainability -- Assistant Professor Candidate

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Continental 4 & 5 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
R. Helen Zha, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

R. Helen Zha – Faculty Candidate

Research Vision:

Synthesizing biohybrid materials for applications in human healthcare and sustainability, with focus on establishing relationships between molecular engineering, hierarchical material structure, and function.

Keywords: soft matter, self-assembly, nanomaterials, bio-inspired materials

Research Experience:

Adviser: Sam Stupp (Northwestern University, Chicago IL)

My Ph.D. research focused on the self-assembly of peptide-based amphiphiles into functional nanomaterials. I investigated the formation of ordered “hairy” membranes by peptide amphiphiles and biopolymers using an aqueous-aqueous interface. Through experimental study as well as collaboration with computational researchers, I identified the key factors in controlling membrane morphology and properties. Furthermore, I incorporated anti-cancer peptide motifs into the membrane self-assembly process to create versatile biomaterials for adjuvant cancer therapy. Additionally, I synthesized protein-mimetic nanostructures as potent angiogenesis inhibitors with potential applications in cancer therapy. (10/2007 – 10/2013)

Adviser: Bert Meijer (Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands)

My postdoctoral research in the group of Bert Meijer investigated self-assembling supramolecular polymers and block molecules into ordered nanomaterials with feature sizes less than 5 nm. These materials comprised of a novel class of well-defined siloxanes oligomers with functional end groups. I studied the synergistic and antagonistic intermolecular forces exhibited by these oligomers in order to understand their fundamental self-assembly behavior as well as control material structure and properties. I further used this knowledge to create photoswitchable materials based on the isomerization of azobenzene. (11/2013 – 7/2016)

Adviser: Phil Messersmith (UC Berkeley, Berkeley CA)

My postdoctoral research in the group of Phil Messersmith will work towards developing materials inspired by spider silk and mussel adhesive proteins. (9/2016 - current)

Research Interests:

Molecular materials with defined nanostructure are vital in developing advanced technologies for a variety of emerging global needs. Self-assembly, the spontaneous organization of molecules into well-defined architectures, is key in controlling soft matter at the nano-scale. My research program will utilize self-assembly to create biohybrid materials for applications in human healthcare as well as energy and sustainability. These materials will incorporate versatile biological building blocks, such as peptides and nucleic acids, in conjunction with functional non-natural components. My research approach will incorporate molecular engineering with materials characterization on nano, meso, and macroscopic length scales. Thus, my research will be positioned at the interface between materials science, chemistry, biology, and engineering.

Teaching Interests:

I have gained significant teaching experience on topics in materials science & engineering, biomedical engineering, and chemistry. I look forward to teaching introductory as well as advanced courses in these fields. Furthermore, I have special interest in developing courses that will prepare students for working in nanotechnology, molecular engineering, and soft matter fields (e.g. Nanomaterials Engineering, Experimental Nano-Analysis).

Selected Awards, Publications, & Patents:

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship ($175,000) 9/2008 – 9/2011

Northwestern University Cabell Fellowship ($60,000) 9/2007 – 9/2008

Zha, R. H.; Sur, S.; Stupp, S. I. Self-assembly of cytotoxic peptide amphiphiles into supramolecular membranes for cancer therapy. Adv. Healthc. Mater. 2013, 2, 126-133. doi: 10.1002/adhm.201200118

Stupp, S. I.; Zha, R. H.; Palmer, L. C.; Cui, H.; Bitton, R. Self-assembly of biomolecular soft matter. Faraday Discuss. 2013, 166, 9-30. doi: 10.1039/C3FD00120B

Zha, R. H.; Sur, S.; Boekhoven, J.; Shi, H. Y.; Zhang, M.; Stupp, S. I. Supramolecular assembly of multifunctional maspin-mimetic nanostructures as a potent peptide-based angiogenesis inhibitor. Acta Biomater. 2015, 12, 1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2014.11.001

Zha, R. H.; Velichko, Y. S.; Bitton, R.; Stupp, S. I. Molecular design for growth of supramolecular membranes with hierarchical structure. Soft Matter. 2016, 12, 1401-1410. doi: 10.1039/c5sm02381e

Zha, R. H.; de Waal, B. F. M.; Lutz, M.; Meijer, E.W. Endgroups of functionalized siloxane oligomers direct block copolymeric or liquid crystalline self-assembly behavior. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2016, 138, 5693–5698. doi: 10.1021/jacs.6b02172 (ACS Editor’s Choice Award)

Zha, R. H.; Zhang, M.; Stupp, S. I. Anti-angiogenic molecules, nanostructures and uses thereof. US9,169,294, October 27, 2015.


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