R. Helen Zha

Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Dr. Helen Zha obtained her B.Sc. (2007) from MIT in Materials Science & Engineering with a focus on polymeric materials. She then received her Ph.D. (2013) from Northwestern University, where she worked as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow on self-assembling peptide-based materials. From 2013 - 2016, Helen pursued postdoctoral research at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, where she developed supramolecular materials with highly ordered nanostructure and photoswitchable properties. In the fall of 2016, Helen moved to UC Berkeley, where she worked on antimicrobial coatings inspired by mussel adhesive proteins and spider silk.

In January 2018, Helen started a position as tenure-track assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering. Her research group seeks to develop biohybrid materials for applications in human healthcare and sustainability.

Aside from academic research, Helen is also an enthusiastic educator who has developed coursework for undergraduate and graduate students as well as outreach programs for Chicago inner city students and teachers. In her spare time, Helen enjoys rock climbing and playing video games with her husband.


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
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