R. Helen Zha

Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Dr. Helen Zha received her B.Sc. (2007) from MIT and her Ph.D. (2013) from Northwestern University in Materials Science & Engineering. After pursuing postdoctoral research at Eindhoven University of Technology and UC Berkeley, Helen started as a tenure-track assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering in 2018. Helen has received an NSF CAREER Award, published 22 peer-reviewed journal articles to date (Google Scholar Page), and currently sits on the Advisory Board of Materials Innovation Initiative.


Ph.D. Northwestern University (2013)
B.S. Materials Science & Engineering, MIT (2007)

Research Focus
  • Biomimetic and Bio-inspired Materials
  • Nanostructured Soft Matter
  • Molecular Engineering and Self-assembly
  • Nanomedicine
  • Materials for Energy and Sustainability
Select Works
  • Alexander J. Connor, R. Helen Zha, Mattheos Koffas*. BIOPRODUCTION OF BIOMACROMOLECULES FOR ANTIVIRAL APPLICATIONS. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 2021 69, 263-272. DOI: 10.1016/j.copbio.2021.01.022
  • Amrita Sarkar, Cody Edson, Ding Tian, Tanner D. Fink, Katherine Cianciotti, Richard A. Gross, Chulsung Bae, and R. Helen Zha*. RAPID SYNTHESIS OF SILK-LIKE POLYMERS FACILITATED BY MICROWAVE IRRADIATION AND CLICK CHEMISTRY. Biomacromolecules. 2021 22, 95-105.
  • Alexis Ziemba, Tanner Fink, Mary Clare Crochiere, Devan Puhl, Samichya Sapkota, Ryan Gilbert*, R. Helen Zha*. COATING TOPOLOGICALLY COMPLEX ELECTROSPUN FIBERS WITH NANO-THIN SILK FIBROIN ENHANCES NEURITE OUTGROWTH IN VITRO. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering. 2020 6 (3), 1321-1332.
  • Robert Centore, Filbert Totsingan, Anna-Christina Amason, Samantha Lyons, R Helen Zha, Richard A Gross*. SELF-ASSEMBLY ASSISTED KINETICALLY CONTROLLED PAPAIN CATALYZED FORMATION OF MPEG-B-PHE(LEU)X. Biomacromolecules. 2019 21 (2), 493-507.
  • Amrita Sarkar, Alexander J. Connor, Mattheos Koffas, R. Helen Zha*. CHEMICAL SYNTHESIS OF SILK-MIMETIC POLYMERS. Materials. 2019 12 (24), 4086.
  • Katerina G. Malollari, Peyman Delparastan, Caroline Sobek, Shraddha J. Vachhani, Tanner D. Fink, R. Helen Zha, Phillip B. Messersmith*. MECHANICAL ENHANCEMENT OF BIOINSPIRED POLYDOPAMINE NANOCOATINGS. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2019 11 (46), 43599-43607.
  • R. Helen Zha*, Peyman Delparastan, Tanner D. Fink, Joschka Bauer, Thomas Scheibel, and Phillip B. Messersmith. UNIVERSAL NANOTHIN SILK COATINGS VIA CONTROLLED SPIDROIN SELF-ASSEMBLY. Biomaterials Science 2019 7 (2), 683-695. (2019 Biomaterials Science Emerging Investigators Issue).
  • Tanner D. Fink and R. Helen Zha*. SILK AND SILK-LIKE SUPRAMOLECULAR MATERIALS. Macromolecular Rapid Communications 2018 39 (17), 1700834.