Wilsdorf Hall 228 395 McCormick Road
Soft Biomatter Laboratory Google Scholar


My lab’s research lies at the interface of soft (bio)materials and biology. We seek to understand and control the interactions between soft (bio)materials and living systems to solve challenges in sustainability and health. We do this using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. Our core expertise is polymers and soft matter, biomaterials, voxelated bioprinting, and additive manufacturing of soft/inorganic matter, complemented by cell biology, nonlinear fluid dynamics, macro-/micro-rheology, advanced characterization, microscopy and image analysis, and microfluidics. Recently, we successfully expanded our capability to in vivo animal studies. Our research is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary. The philosophy of our research is to identify and solve problems of both fundamental importance and practical value; this is often accomplished by working closely with experts from various fields. Members of our group often start with one area of research and gradually broaden their horizon spanning from physics, chemistry, biology, engineering to medicine. 

We focus on three directions:

  • 3D printing of adaptive soft materials. Existing polymers for 3D printing are largely limited to stiff plastics. We develop new design principles to create 3D printable soft materials. Integrating polymer chemistry, polymer physics, molecular theory, and multi-scale modeling, we are establishing molecule-structure-property-function relations for new classes of adaptive soft materials. By developing various kinds of 3D printing techniques, we transform these materials to multi-material, functional organic/inorganic architectures for applications including soft robots, tissue engineering, and catalysis. 
  • Programmable cell assembly. Inspired by Minecraft, a popular video game that uses individual 3D cubes as voxels to create a virtual world, we develop voxelated bioprinting technologies to assemble cell encapsulated droplets to create 3D cell assemblies with programmed architecture and function. Research along this direction includes: (1) development of voxelated bioprinting platform, (2) design and synthesis of modular biomaterials, and (3) engineering functional tissue mimics. 
  • Human lung defense. As we are alive, we must breathe. This process of breathing brings bacterial, viral, and environmental particulates into our lungs. How can the lungs fight against them? To answer this question, we develop micro-human airway device to capture the geometric and biological features of human airway and exploit this device to study human lung defense. Integrating soft matter physics, engineering, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and systems biology, we are investigating the interactions between mucus and three indispensable components of the microenvironment: cilia, cells, and bacteria.


B.S. Physics, Lanzhou University, 2006

Ph.D. Materials Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012

Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 2013-2017

"We aim to understand and control the interactions between adaptive soft materials and living systems to solve challenges in sustainability and health."


Research Interests

Soft (bio)Materials
Additive Manufacturing

Selected Publications


UVA Research Excellence Award 2023
ACS PRF Doctoral New Investigator Award 2020
NSF CAREER Award 2019
Harvard University Postdoctoral Award for Professional Development 2014
North Carolina Impact Award 2013
Chun-Tsung Scholar 2004