R. Helen Zha, Ph.D.

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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 currently works 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.


Get in touch

If you would like to work in my lab, discuss research collaborations, or have any other questions, please feel free to contact me. 

Contact information ▸


Lab Members


Postdoctoral Fellow

This Could Be You

The Zha Lab is looking to hire one postdoctoral researcher to spearhead our research on biomimetic antimicrobials. This researcher will lead the synthesis and characterization of novel supramolecular nanostructures that target pathogenic bacteria with high specificity. The researcher will also contribute high-level input in the setup of our new lab and research group. Qualified candidates should have a Ph.D. in chemistry or a chemistry-related field and have practical experience in organic chemistry, bio-organic chemistry, or supramolecular chemistry. Oral and written communication skills are also highly valued. This position is available starting in January 2018. Interested candidates should email a cover letter and CV directly to Dr. Helen Zha.



Graduate student

Tanner Fink

Tanner graduated from Iowa State University with his Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering in 2016. He is originally from Nora Springs, Iowa and during his free time enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, and cooking.