My research interests are in microfabrication and nanotechnology for biomedical, energy, and environmental applications. Our current research interests are Aptamer and Gold Nanoparticles (Au NPs)–based biosensors. Rapid development of microanalytical devices has provided convenience and capability for disease diagnosis, drug screening, or forensic applications. However, a sensitive and selective detection platform that can be integrated into portable devices is still a challenge.
At WPI, we developed a system of adenosine/its aptamer that is tagged by Au NPs to construct a Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) sensor to detect adenosine. We also explored the ability of aptamer-Au NPs conjugates in increasing the sensitivity of SPR and electrochemical sensors for the detection of large biomolecules. Employing magnetism for rapid and sensitive biological detection to render microsystems more effective, unified design approaches are necessary. In our work, we employ the physical phenomena of magnetism to elegantly couple nanomaterials with microfluidics so as to engineer a new generation of sensing microsystems that support ultrasensitive detection of targeted biological agents.
Finite-element simulation technique is used to demonstrate the magnetic enhancement and moreover investigate the wide range of design parameters involved in the development of novel and efficient magnetically actuated mixing, separation, and detection processes on a chip. In order to extend the application of Magnetical Nanoparticles (MNPs) in bioassay, some novel techniques had been used to detect MNPs, such as electrochemical method, IR spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, magnetic AFM, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bio–bar-code, etc. However, these methods either need labeling as MNPs by electroactive probes, fluorescence molecules, or need expensive experiment setups, thereby limiting them to be used on a bench top scale and meaning they cannot be used for simple, in situ, and cost-effective detection of real samples. We investigate the application of SPR spectroscopy for fast, ultrasensitive, and in situ detection of the MNPs-enriched biomolecules. We have successfully developed an amplification technique using MNPs for enhanced SPR bioassay, for both small molecule detection and immunoassay.
Successful nerve regeneration requires tissue-engineered scaffolds that provide not only mechanical support for growing neurites and preventing ingrowth of fibrous scar tissue, but also biological signals to direct the axonal growth cone to the distal stump. An ideal nerve conduit includes a biodegradable and porous channel wall, the ability to deliver bioactive growth factors, incorporation of support cells, and internal-oriented matrix to support cell migration, intraluminal channels to mimic the structure of nerve fascicles, and electrical activities. With the ongoing collaboration with UMass Medical School, we are working on developing bio-inspired multifunctional material for neuron regeneration.
At the undergraduate level, I teach Fluid Mechanics and Chemical Engineering Unit Operation Labs. At the graduate level, I teach Fluid Mechanics and Micro- and Nano- Technology for Biomedical Applications. Besides covering fundamentals, I try to bring the most upfront materials into the classroom and incorporate projects into the curriculum. Besides mentoring graduate students and postdocs, the most exciting part of teaching is to involve undergraduate students into my research program. Another part of my teaching is to provide global education opportunities for WPI students.
Professional Highlights & Honors
This article was featured in the Worcester Business Journal. The research by Hong Susan Zhou, associate professor of chemical engineering, has led to a biosensor that could be used to quickly detect C. diff bacteria. Zhou is principal investigator for the biosensor research program, and Yuxiang (Shawn) Liu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is co-PI.