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



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.


Graduate student

Alex Connor

Alex graduated from the Univeristy of Pittsburgh in 2018 with his Bachelor's of Science in Chemical Engineering.  He was born and raised a few minutes outside of Pittsburgh and his hobbies include lifting, listening to music, and writing.


Graduate student

Caleb Wigham

Caleb graduated from Texas Tech University in 2018 with his Bachelor's of Science in Chemical Engineering. He grew up in Blanket, Texas and his hobbies include hiking, road trips, and racquetball.


Graduate student

Hannah Doss

Hannah graduated in 2015 from Northeastern University with her Bachelor's of Science in Chemical Engineering. After graduating, Hannah worked for three years at Bristol-Myers Squibb developing and optimizing chromatographic and filtration processes, and supporting the commercial production of protein therapeutics. Hannah is originally from Cape Elizabeth, Maine and enjoys hiking, rock climbing, yoga, cooking, DIY, and traveling.


Undergraduate Student

Katherine Cianciotti

Katherine will be graduating in May of 2020 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. She will be working at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in their Process Sciences department in the summer of 2019.