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Yuanwei Zhang

Zhang, Yuanwei
Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Environmental Science

Yuanwei Zhang comes to NJIT in 2016 from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. His research focuses on organic chemistry and nanotechnology, with an emphasis on biological and biomedical applications such as disease diagnosis, drug delivery and therapy. He developed, for example, a system that uses light to activate inert immune cells to aid in the killing of cancer cells.

Earlier in his career, while a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida (UCF), he worked on organic compounds that could sense conditions within the micro-environment in cells by means of fluorescence, the emission of light. These sensors have been used to study changes in intracellular viscosity distribution in living cells that relate to a number of diseases and pathologies. In 2013, Zhang won the University Award for Outstanding Dissertation in UCF’s Department of Chemistry. His research has been published in journals, such as ACS Nano, Chemistry – A European Journal, eLife and Journal of The American Chemical Society.


Ph.D. 2013, University of Central Florida, USA
M.S. 2008, Nankai University, China

Professional Experience

Assistant Professor, 09/2016 – present, Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, NJIT.
Postdoctoral Associate, 01/2014 – 08/2016, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Umass Medical School.

Fall 2016

CHEM 243, Organic Chemistry I

To decipher a complicate biological process, one needs tools to perturb the involved actors and monitor the changes to gain fundamental information. In this context, light is a very attractive actuator with high temporal and spatial resolution. To date, tool boxes to control the function and activity of biomolecules at cellular level with light already exist. Efforts have to be made, partly in the design of fluorescent probes and biosensors allowing the tracking and quantification of changes with higher accuracy.

Another important direction of development will be to overcome the drawbacks of light in the visible range that could interrogate living organisms. To conquer the latter obstacle, one can structurally design the photo-responsible groups to push excitable wavelength to a longer range, meanwhile, nanoparticle based near-infrared light transducer is another attracting option.

Overall, our goal is to chemically modify and engineer light responsible/sensitive modules to achieve red or NIR light sensitivity. And used these tools to perturbing and sensing biological process as a way to harness cellular behavior and activity. These toolboxes could offer new approaches for disease diagnosis and treatment.

Selected Publications:
  • Mercado-Lubo, R., Zhang, Y., Zhao, L., Rossi, K., Wu, X., Zou, Y., Castillo, A., Leonard, J., Bortell, R., Greiner, D. L., Shultz, L. D., Han, G., McCormick, B. A. A salmonella nanoparticle mimic overcomes multidrug resistance in tumours. Nat. Commun. 2016, 7:12225, DOI:10.1038/ncomms12225.
  • Zhang, Y.;§ Huang, L.;§ Li, Z.; Ma, G.; Zhou, Y.;* Han, G.* Illuminating Cell Signaling with Near-Infrared Light-Responsive Nanomaterials. ACS Nano, 2016, 10(4), 3881-3885. (§ equal contribution, * co-corresponding author)
  • Wu, X.;§ Zhang, Y.;§ Takle, K.;§ Bilsel, O.; Li, Z.; Lee, H.; Zhang, Z.; Li, D.; Fan, W.; Duan, C.-Y.; Chan, E. M.; Lois, C.; Xiang, Y.; Han, G. Dye Sensitized Core/Active Shell Upconversion Nanoparticles for Optogenetics and Bioimaging Applications. ACS Nano, 2016, 10(1), 1060-1066. (§ equal contribution)
  • He, L.;§ Zhang, Y.;§ Ma, G.;§ Tan, P.;§ Li, Z.; Zang, S.; Wu, X.; Jing, J.; Fang, S.; Zhou, L.; Wang, Y.; Huang, Y.; Hogan, P.; Han, G.;* Zhou, Y.* Near-Infrared Photoactivatable Control of Ca2+ Signaling and Optogenetic Immunomodulation. eLife 2015; 10.7554/eLife.10024. (§ equal contribution, * co-corresponding author)
  • Li, Z.; Zhang, Y.; Wu, X.; Huang, L.; Li, D.; Fan, W.; Han, G. Direct Aqueous-Phase Synthesis of Sub-10 nm “Luminous Pearls” with Enhanced In Vivo Renewable Near-Infrared Persistent Luminescence. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137(16), 5304-5307. (ACS Editor’s Choice, JACS Spotlights DOI:10.1021/jacs.5b04394)
  • Zhang, Y.; Yue, X.; Kim, B.; Yao, S.; Belfield, K. D. Deoxyribonucleoside-Modified Squaraine as Near-IR Viscosity Sensors. Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20(24), 7249-7253.
  • Zhang, Y.; Yue, X.; Kim, B.; Yao, S.; Bondar, M. V.; Belfield, K. D. Bovine Serum Albumin Nanoparticles with Fluorogenic Near-IR-Emitting Squaraine Dyes. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2013, 5, 8710-8717.
  • Zhang, Y.; Kim, B.; Yao, S.; Bondar, M. V.; Belfield, K. D. Controlled Aggregation and Enhanced Two-Photon Absorption of A Water-Soluble Squaraine Dye with Poly(acrylic acid) Template. Langmuir 2013, 29, 11005-11012.