Office Phone: 301-405-1874
 Office Address: 2216A
 Group Website

Assistant Professor


  • Ph. D., Polymer and Materials Chemistry, University of Toronto, Canada 2008
  • M. Sc., Polymer Physics and Chemistry, CIAC, CAS, China 2003
  • B. Eng., Jilin University, China 2000

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Maryland, 2011- Present
  • Affiliated faculty, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, 2012-present
  • Affiliated faculty, Maryland Nanocenter, 2011- Present
  • NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University 2008-10 (with George M. Whitesides)

Research Interests

Molecular and colloidal self-assembly; Microfluidics and microreactors; Soft nanotechnology; Nanoscience and nanochemistry; Plasmonics and metamaterials; Biomedicine and medical diagnostics; Biomineralization and bioinspired materials.

Professional Societies

  • Editorial board member: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group) (2012-)
  • American Chemical Society (2010-present); Materials Research Society (2010-present)
  • Graduate Program Committee, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMD (2011, 2012)
  • Merit Pay and Awards Committee, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMD (2012)
  • Search Committee for Lab Instructor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMD, 2011
  • Mentor, Beckman Scholar, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, 2011-2012
  • Mentor, Summer Research Internship Program for Economically Disadvantaged High School Students (ACS SEED Program), ACS, 2012

Major Recognitions and Honors

  • ACS PRF Doctoral New Investigator, 2013
  • NSF CAREER Award, 2012
  • Research and Scholarship Award (RASA), UMD, 2012
  • K. C. Wong Research Scholarship, 2011
  • NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2008–10
  • CAGS/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award, 2009
  • Chair’s Doctoral Prize in Chemistry, 2009
  • Canada Research Chair Graduate Prize in Nanochemistry, 2008
  • MSED/LANXESS Graduate Thesis Award, Chemical Institute of Canada, 2008
  • Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad, 2007
  • Jim Guillet Chemistry Graduate Scholarship, 2007
  • Colin Hahnemann Bayley Fellowship, 2005


Nanoparticle chemistry and self-assembly, soft materials, microfluidic

The central theme of our research program is to understand interactions between molecules and nanoscale objects for assembling functional materials. We are particularly interested in molecular and colloidal assembly, the collective properties of nanoparticle ensembles, and the biomedical applications of assemblies.Figure 1

Nanoscale Building Blocks for New Materials:

Self-assembly is ubiquitous in nature, from the crystallization of snowflaks to the for mation of galaxies. Particularly, self-assembly in biological systems leads to remarkably complex structures (i.e., virus) which far surpass traditional materials in both design and functionality. The organization of nanoscale objects relative to one another and to larger structures is vital for their utilization in energy, optoelectronics, sensing, and biomedical applications. Inspired by
Nie Figure 2

biological assembly, our efforts involve i) constructing novel nanoscale building blocks for assembing new materials; ii) researching new methodologies of assembling them into programmable architectures iii) exploring structure-property correlations of assembled materials and their applications in sustainable energy, sensing, and theranostics. (J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2013, 135, 7974; Agew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2013, 52, 2463; ACS Nano, 2013, 7, 5320–5329; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 3639; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 3628; Science 2010, 329, 197).

Microfluidic mimicking of biological tubules for studying pharmacokinetics and diseases:

Tubular structures such as vascular vessel, renal tubules and salivary ducts operate important machinery to not only enable materials (i.e., nutrition, oxygen, waste) to move quickly throughout the organism, but also prevent the formation of deposits or blockage. Reconstruction of tubular tissues in vitro offers a new scenario of opportunities in the areas including implantable organs or devices, drug and toxic screening, and cell biology. Nie Figure 3We reprogram and culture cells (i.e., kidney proximal tubular cells, and salivary gland ductal cells) overall the wall of microfluidic devices to generate lumens with circular shapes and functional polarized monolayer. Using this in-vitro model, we conduct a new line of research directed towards: i) the real-time observation of kidney stone formation; and ii) the study of nano-carriers cross vascular membranes during drug/gene delivery. (Lab Chip 2012,12, 4037; Bioanalysis, 2012, 4, 1509).

Biomimetic programmable soft materials for tunable optics and tissue engineering:

Material systems in nature (i.e., plants) perform environmentally responsive movements or shape transformations using anisotropy and hygroscopy. These systems offer new conceptual and practical inspirations for designing truly programmable architectural structures. Inspired by nature, we explore i) new concept of shape transformation materials; ii) dynamic tissue scaffolds for regenerative medicines; iii) optically active soft materials. (Nature Communications, 2013, 4, 1586); J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2013, 135, 4834.)

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