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 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.


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. 

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Lab Members

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Postdoctoral Fellow

Amrita Sarkar, Ph.D.

Amrita obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of South Carolina, Columbia in 2018. Her research focused on the block copolymer control of tunable porous nanostructured materials. Amrita’s current research interest is the synthesis of silk-mimetic polymers and tuning the material properties by regulating their chemical structure, composition, and nanoscale morphology. Amrita enjoys traveling in her free time.



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.