Cheng Zhu, PhD

Georgia Tech


Dr. Zhu is a Regents Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics and holds the J. Erskine Love Endowed Chair in Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. His Ph.D. (1988) and postdoctoral training with Richard Skalak at Columbia University and University of California, San Diego was on the mathematical modeling of cell locomotion and cell adhesion. He has become a self-taught experimentalist since 1990 after he built his own lab at Georgia Tech. He pioneered the analysis of interactions at the junctional interface between molecules anchored to two apposing surfaces. The Zhu lab characterized the biophysical regulations of 2D binding and showed their biological relevance. In particular, the Zhu lab has shown that in situ measures of TCR–pMHC and TCR–pMHC–CD8 interactions correspond to T-cell effector functionality. Dr. Zhu also is an internationally recognized leader in molecular biomechanics. His lab conceptualized and/or demonstrated several types of mechanical regulation of protein unbinding and unfolding (catch bonds, force-history, cyclic mechanical reinforcement, and dynamic catch) in a variety of receptor–ligand systems, including selectins, integrins, platelet glycoprotein Ibα, actin, and T-cell receptors with their respective ligands. Using a fluorescence biomembrane force probe for concurrently measuring force-regulated receptor–ligand interaction and intracellular signaling so triggered, the Zhu lab has characterized the mechanreception of the T cell receptor and platelet receptor GPIb, opening new areas of mechanobiology at the single molecule level.