Harnessing the Power of Synthetic Biology

Developing and applying synthetic biology tools to address society's most daunting challenges in human health and energy, and investigating the fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis, cell metabolism, and gene regulation. Read More

Huimin Zhao

Huimin Zhao

Steven L. Miller Chair Professor
B.S., University of Science and Technology of China, 1992
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 1998

Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Dr. Frances Arnold. Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company. He was promoted to full professor in 2008. Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 260 research articles and over 20 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry. In addition, he has given plenary, keynote or invited lectures in over 300 international meetings, universities, industries, and research institutes. Fifteen (15) of his former graduate students and postdocs became professors in the United States (7), China (5), Korea (2), and Egypt (1). Read short bio and full CV

Graduate Students

Jonathan Ning

B.S., University of California Berkeley, 2011
My research encompasses the development of an inducible promoter for eukaryotic systems and discovery of new natural products from the fungal species Asperigillus clavatus. In exploring these areas I utilize the robust genetic and metabolic capabilities of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae host system.

Ran Chao

B.A.Sc., University of British Columbia, Canada, 2011
My research mainly focus on developing a fully automated and highly flexible foundry for biomanufacturing.

Xiong Xiong

B.S., University of Wisconsin Madison, 2012
I would like to take what life comes to me. I like that. That I can live by.

Ipek Tasan

B.S., Bilkent University, Turkey, 2012
I am continuing the story of fairyTALEN. My work includes high-throughput applications of fairyTALE, a recently introduced TALEN synthesis platform, such as creating knockout libraries or introducing genomic deletions in a high-throughput manner. I really enjoy working in an area that challenges my creativity every day.

Hengqian Ren

B.S. Tianjin University, 2013
Waiting for the good results...

Yajie Wang

B.S., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2012
We are who we are.

Surbhi Jain

Bachelors of Technology (B.Tech)
Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee,India 2010-2014
1. Developing a novel tool for artificial chromatin looping using programmable nucleases
2. Augmenting stem cell therapy with genome engineering

Behnam Enghiad

B.S. Sharif University of Technology, Iran
I am interested in discovery of novel natural products. Part of my project is developing genome engineering tools for Actinomycetes. The other part of my project is activation of natural products cryptic pathways in Actinomycetes by native host engineering. You can email me at enghiad2@illinois.edu.

Shekhar Mishra

B.Tech in Chemical Engineering, IIT Bombay 2014
M.Tech in Chemical Engineering, IIT Bombay 2014
I am interested in exploring the design principles of biological systems for the purpose of improved metabolic engineering strategies using a combination of mathematical models and experimental techniques.

Pu Xue Mason

B.S. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA, 2016
My research is focus on Orthogonal genetic regulation in Mammalian cells using chemically induced CRISPR/Cas9 as the activator. Also, I am doing Genome-scale engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with precision and Dual gene reporters for CREST-Seq targets in mESCs.

Meng Zhang

B.E., Tsinghua University, China, 2016.
I joined Zhao group as a PhD student in 2016. My research interests lie in the field of genome engineering, especially its potential to treat human diseases. Currently, I am working on developing CRISPRatt, a synthetic biology tool to achieve site-specific integration of large DNA molecules in mammalian cells. Outside the lab, I enjoy writing short stories and watching movies; The Lobster was my favorite in 2017. I can be reached at mzhan100@illinois.edu.

Qiqi Tian

B.S. China Pharmaceutical University
I joined Zhao group as a PhD student from the Department of Biochemistry in the spring of 2017. My research is focused on establishing a scalable platform for natural product discovery. Particularly, I am interested in the discovery of ribosomal synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides (RiPPs), a major class of natural products. I can be reached at qiqit2@illinois.edu.

Carl Schultz

B.S., Cornell University, 2015
I am developing genetic tools for the genome-scale metabolic engineering of yeasts for biofuel and biochemical production.

Kasra Tabatabaei

B.S., University of Tehran, Iran, 2017
Trying to store some information on some DNA. You can reach me at skt4@illinois.edu

Che Yang

B.S., Michigan State University, 2017
I have great interests in unraveling secrets in mammalian cells with genome engineering techniques.

Vinh Tran

B.S., University of California at Berkeley, 2016

Lam Vo

B.S., Union College, 2017
Enjoy the Present!

Postdoctoral Fellows

Tong Si

B.S., Tsinghua University, China, 2009
Ph.D., University of Illinos, USA, 2014
I am an IGB fellow in the Biosystems Design theme, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, co-supervised by Profs. Huimin Zhao, Jonathan Sweedler and Wilfred van der Donk. With applications in biotechnology and medicine, my research aims to expand directed evolution from the scales of gene and pathway to genome and microbiome, via interdisciplinary approaches integrating synthetic biology, robotic automation and advanced analytical chemistry. I enjoy reading, karaoke, going to the gym and traveling in my spare time. I can be reached at tongsi1@uiuc.edu.

Bin Wang

PhD, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, 2016
Live a plain life, and hold a distant dream

Yi Yu

B.S., Wuhan University, China, 2009
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, 2015
I am now working on mammalian cell genome engineering and yeast surface display of minicellulosome.

Fang Guo

PhD, Institute of Microbiogy, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, 2016
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.


Yuying Wu

Chemical Engineering, 2017
Time to tip the scales

Sherri Ho

Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2018
I'm on the premed track majoring in MCB and pursuing a minor in chemistry. I work with Hengqian and enjoy being in the lab.

Scott Weisberg

Biochemistry, 2019
I’m a research assistant to Sam and I’m very excited to be a part of this lab!

Shireen Abesteh

Molecular and Cell Biology, 2019
I am a research assistant to Surbhi Jain and love being in the lab and I enjoy learning new things!

Hugh Yeh

Molecular and Cellular Biology, Engineering Physics, 2019
In the lab, I am a research assistant to Yi Yu. Outside the lab, I enjoy running and building medical devices.

Yiziying Chen

Biochemistry and Statistics, 2018
This is Yiziying Chen, a senior student (class of 2018) dual degree in Biochemistry and Statistics. I am currently working with Shekhar Mishra with his research on yeast S. Cervisiae Lipidomics modeling alpha-sync protein oxidative stress related to Parkinson's Disease. I will start my graduate study at Yale University School of Public Health in Biostatistics Fall 2018. I want to become a professional biostatistician and help and collaborate with researchers in the clinical centers to better understand the underlying features behinds biomedical dataset in the future.

Christina Su

Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2020
I am a research assistant to Ipek and I love being in the lab! Outside of lab my hobbies include doing crafts, cooking, and biking. I enjoy traveling to new places and meeting new people.

Linzixuan Zhang

Chemical Engineering, 2020
Leading a life full of possibilities while chasing a distant but clear future. .