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Rong Wang

Rong Wang, Ph.D.

Rong Wang, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Graduate Director
Director, International Center for Sensor Science and Engineering






344 Robert A. Pritzker Science Center


B.S. Jilin University
Ph.D. University of Tokyo


My research interest focuses on utilizing biophysics and surface chemistry approaches to examine cells/microbes and diseases at molecular levels, as well as developing functional biomaterials to forge new detection and intervention methods. In specific, my group harnesses the advancements in molecular characterization methods such as probe scanning microscopy, surface engineering with new bioconjugate chemistry, and molecular manipulation via photochemistry and nano-processing to deliberate the cell-cell / cell-matrix interactions and to explicate the concerted changes of cells, tissues and their environments.

Students receive training in biophysics, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, surface chemistry, bioconjugate chemistry, material engineeringand cell biology through the following on-going research projects:

  • Examination of structure-function relationship for collagen in native tissues. Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in connective tissues. Defects in collagen fiber and fiber network were frequently linked to health conditions, aging and diseases. Aiming to reveal the correlations of collagen’s biochemical, biophysical and biomechanical features with patients’ clinical conditions, my group has carried out studies of collagen on the nanoscopic to macroscopic scales in vaginal wall connective tissues harvested from patients withpelvic organ prolapse (POP) (via collaborations with surgeons in UIC, Rush and NorthShore hospitals). The work opens up the opportunity of assessing collagen functionality via a clinical test during a patient’s visit. It allows clinicians to alert any pre-symptomatic conditions, to employ peculiar treatment for preventing further development of the condition, and to reduce unneeded invasive surgical procedures. Examination of the multi-scale structure, composition and mechanics of collagen, elastin and smooth muscle cells as well as the integration/deterioration of these tissue components is under way to elucidate their association with the emergence and progression of POP.

    Figure 1. Nanoscopic characterization of collagen fibrils /fibers in fresh tissues from healthy and POP women.

  • Development of biocomposite materials as tissue engineering scaffolds. The research on the structure-function relationship of collagen furnishes the design principles for tissue engineering scaffolds. Accordingly, we have developed biocomposite materials, e.g., collagen-CNT, silk-CNT and collagen-silk, in an effort of modulating the biochemical composition and biophysical properties of cell culture matrices. Epitaxial growth and electrospinning techniques have been employed to generate aligned nanometer-scale fibers mimicking the protein fibers in native tissues. These biocomposite fibers have been applied to coax stem cell differentiation to neurons for regenerative medicine, and stimulate fibroblasts to induce improved collagen productivity for the repair of connective tissues with collagen disorders associated with chronic wounds in diabetes patients and pelvic organ prolapse.

    Figure 2. Collagen-silk composite fibers to support neural differentiation of stem cells.

  • Quantitative evaluation of virus adhesion on food-processing materials.Human enteric viruses are the major cause of foodborne viral gastroenteritis. The disease transmission is strongly associated with virus adhesion on the surfaces of various materials involved in ready-to-eat food preparation and hand-handling. In our work, the preferential virus adhesion on a range of food-processing materials was investigated using MS2 bacteriophage as a surrogate of enteric viruses. The application of AFM allowed for sensitive and quantitative detection of adhesion forces of virus particles against various surfaces. The results revealed that hydrophobicity, surface charge and surface porosity play important roles in virus adhesion. Further research is on the way to investigate the effect of virus inactivation method on virus adhesion. The work will facilitate the development of improved mitigation strategies for removing and inactivating viruses from hand and abiotic processing surfaces.

  • Photo-treatment of neuroblastoma by indocyanine green (ICG) therapeutic reagent. Neuroblastoma occurs most often in infants and young children. The neuroblastoma cells are easy to spread and resist many drugs. Our recent work has shown that the photo-treatment by ICG alone has a greater impact on neuroblastoma cells than normal control cells. The effective form of ICG in photo-treatment is under investigation. Enzyme linked ICG targeting to cancer cells will be developed, characterized and applied in killing neuroblastoma cells in culture and in tissues.
  • Thermo-responsive polymers in sensor application. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAAm) is a thermo-responsive polymer that can be triggered by heat or IR light to switch between the dehydrated and hydrated states. At the hydrated state, the polymer swells and closes the pores; at the dehydrated state, the polymer shrinks and opens the pores. We develop the pNIPAAmcomposites to explore the applications in chemical sensing and acoustic sensing.

    Figure 3. Adhesion force measurements between MS2 modified probe and food-processing surfaces.

    Figure 4. Thermo-responsive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)(PNIPAAm).


The following is a list of representative publications (out of 59):

  • "Electrochemical Modulation of Molecular Conversion in an Azobenzene-Terminated Self-Assembled Monolayer Film: an in situ UV-visible and Infrared Study", R. Wang, T. Iyoda, D.A. Tryk, K. Hashimoto and A. Fujishima, Langmuir, 13, 4644 (1997).
  • "Light-Induced Amphiphilic Surfaces", R. Wang, K. Hashimoto, A. Fujishima, M. Chikuni, E. Kojima, A. Kitamura, M. Shimohigoshi and T. Watanabe, Nature, 388, 431 (1997). (# citations: 3432)
  • “Direct Observation of Sol-Gel Conversion: the Role of the Solvent in Organogel Formation”, R. Wang, C. Geiger, L. Chen, B. I. Swanson, D. G. Whitten, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 122, 2399 (2000).(# citations: 230)
  • “Studies on Protein-Receptor Interaction Using the Atomic Force Microscope”, S. Vengasandra, G. Sethumadhavan, F. Yan and R. Wang, Langmuir19, 10940 (2003).
  • “Morphogenesis of Bacillusspore surfaces”, Venkata G.R. Chada, Erik A. Sanstad, Rong Wang and Adam Driks, J. Bacter.,185, 6255-6261 (2003). (# citations: 178)
  • “Identification of TrkA on Living PC12 Cells by the Atomic Force Microscopy”, C.V. Gopal Reddy, M. Krystina, N. Menhart and R. Wang, Biochim. Biophys. Acta.1667 15-25 (2004).
  • “Synthesis and characterization of a novel photolabile cross-linker and its application on protein photo-delivery”, F. Yan; L. Chen; Q. Tang; R. Wang, Bioconjugate Chem.151030 (2004).
  • “Protein Delivery with Nanoscale Precision”, Qiling Tang, Yuexing Zhang, Liaohai Chen, Funing Yan and Rong Wang, Nanotechnology,161062-1068 (2005).
  • “Hole-Enhanced Raman Scattering”, J. T. Bahns, F. Yan, D. Qiu, R. Wang and L. Chen, Appl. Spectros., 60(9),989-993 (2006).
  • “Profiling TRA-1-81 antigen distribution on a human embryonic stem cell”, D. Qiu, J. Xiang, Z. Li, A. Krishnamoorthy, L. Chen,R. Wang, Biolchem. Biolphys. Res. Com., 369, 735-740 (2008).
  • “Adapting collagen / CNT matrix in directing hESC differentiation”, Indumathi Sridharan, Taeyoung Kim, Rong Wang, Biolchem. Biolphys. Res. Com., 381 (2009) 508–512. (# citations: 93)
  • “Spatially Resolved Quantification of E-Cadherin on Target hES Cells”, Zhaoxia Li, Dengli Qiu, Indumathi Sridharan, Xiaoping Qian, Honghong Zhang, Chunbo Zhang, and Rong Wang, J. Phys. Chem. B,114, 2894–2900 (2010).
  • 13.“Structural and mechanical profiles of native collagen fibers in vaginal wall connective tissues”, Indumathi Sridharan, Yin Ma, Taeyoung Kim, William Kobak, Jacob Rotmensch, Rong Wang, Biomaterials33 (2012) 1520-1527.
  • “Two-way regulation between cells and aligned collagen fibrils: local 3D matrix formation and accelerated neural differentiation of human decidua parietalis placental stem cells.”, Wen Li, Bofan Zhu,Zuzana Strakova, Rong Wang, Biochem. Biophys. Res. Com., 450, 1377-1382 (2014).
  • “Effect of CNT on Collagen Fiber Structure, Stiffness Assembly Kinetics and Stem Cell Differentiation”, Taeyoung Kim, Indumathi Sridharan, Bofan Zhu, Joseph Orgel, Rong Wang, Mater. Sci. Eng. C, 2015; 49: 281-289.
  • “E-spun Composite Fibers of Collagen and Dragline Silk Protein: Fiber Mechanics, Biocompatibility and Application in Stem Cell Differentiation”, Zhu B., Li W., Lewis R., Segre C., Wang R., Biomacromolecules 2015; 16: 202−213.
  • “Identifying distinct nanoscopic features of native collagen fibrils towards early diagnosis of pelvic organ prolapse”, Taeyoung Kim, Indumathi Sridharan, Yin Ma, Bofan Zhu, Naiwei Chi, William Kobak, Jacob Rotmensch, Jay D. Schieber, Rong Wang, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, 2016; 12: 667–675.
  • “Optimization of Glutaraldehyde Vapor Treatment for Electrospun Collagen/Silk Tissue Engineering Scaffolds”. Zhu B, Li W, Chi N, Lewis RV, Osamor J, Wang R. ACS Omega. 2017;2(6):2439-2450.
  • “Differential MS2 Interaction with Food Contact Surfaces Determined by Atomic Force Microscopy and Virus Recovery”, Shim J, Stewart DS, Nikolov AD, Wasan DT, Wang R, Yan R, Shieh YC. Appl Environ Microbiol 83:e01881-17 (2017).
  • “Matrix Mediated Stimulation of Fibroblast Cells for Wound Healing”, Rong Wang, Naiwei Chi, US Patent (Provisional), March 2018.
  • “Miniature Fiber Laser Microphones with Graphene Diaphragms,” Shaolin Liao, Thomas Wong, Zi Wang, Rong Wang, Elwin Clutter, and Hual-Te Chien, 2018 IEEE RAPID.