• Lu group holiday party 2019


The Lu Group’s interests lie at the interface between chemistry and biology. We are developing innovative chemical approaches to provide deeper insight into biological structures and functions, while also taking advantage of recently developed biological tools to advance many areas in chemistry, such as inorganic chemistry, chemical biology, analytical chemistry, and materials chemistry. We strive to make significant contributions in three principal areas of research:

1. Biosynthetic Inorganic Chemistry

Synthesis and study of structural and functional mimics of metalloenzymes, as well as the applications of these mimics as biocatalysts in renewable energy generation and small-molecule activation and transformation.

2. DNAzyme and Aptamer-Based Sensing and Imaging Agents

In vitro selection of DNAzymes/aptamers and development of highly sensitive and selective sensors and imaging agents for detection of metal ions and small-molecule targets with applications in environmental monitoring, food safety, and medical diagnostics and imaging.

3. Functional DNA Nanotechnology

Using DNA for encoded synthesis and directed assembly of nanomaterials, as well as the applications of these nanomaterials as theranostic agents for early detection of diseases such as cancers and targeted drug delivery.

4. Biocatalysis and Synthetic Biology

Engineer biocatalysts to address challenges in synthetic organic chemistry and applications of novel biocatalysts in synthetic biology for biomass conversion, valuable products generation in high yield and good selectivity.


Recent News

2022 December | Dr. Lu has won the prestigious Allen Distinguished Investigators award.

2022 June | Dr. Lu has become a member of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering.

2022 May | Karen Zhang has won the CNS Award for Excellence in Biochemistry. Congratulations!

2022 April | Congratulations, Fred Elmquist, for receiving the chemistry departments’ summer undergraduate research fellowship.

2022 April | Congratulations, Whitney, for receiving a Summer 2022 Chemistry Department Research Fellowship.

2022 April | Valeria has won the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). Congratulations!

2022 April | Dr. Lu has become a member of the Texas Materials Institute.

2022 April | Dr. Lu has become a member of the John Ring LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease (CID), which bridges the gap between basic and translational research into microbial and viral pathogenesis.

2022 March | Dr. Lu has become a full member of the Quantitative Oncology research program in the Livestrong Cancer Institutes at the UT Dell Medical School. Congratulations!

2022 January | Isabelle has been awarded an NIH fellowship under the inaugural Project-to-Product Team Entrepreneurship and Active Mentoring (P2P-TEAM). With support of this fellowship, she will carry out structure-based development of diagnostic and therapeutic agents against SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens under mentorship of Dr. Lu, Dr. Jason McLellan and industrial collaborators. Congratulations!
2021 December | Dr. Lu has been selected as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors | Founded in 2010, the National Academy of Inventors aims to recognize inventors with patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with an overall emphasis on innovation that clearly benefits society. See the news on the CNS website.

2021 November | New DNAzyme reveals different Li+ accumulation pattern in patient neurons | Lithium has been a drug for treating bipolar disorder (BD), a mental health condition marked by extreme mood swings since 1949. However, scientists still don’t have a clear understanding of how the drug works, because of lack of a sensor selective for Li+. Recently, our paper published in ACS Central Science, shine new light on bipolar disorder by developing a new DNAzyme-based sensor specifically for Li+ in live cells, discovering that neurons from BD patients accumulate higher levels of lithium than healthy controls. The paper has gathered attention from many news outlets, including Eureka Alert, Science Daily , Mirage News, and others. See the commentary on the article in ACS.
2021 September | DNA sensor quickly determines whether viruses are infectious | Most tests for viruses, including SAR2-Cov-2, are based on detecting viral RNA and antigen and have been shown to be poor in informing whether a virus is infectious or not. They may result in delayed treatment or quarantine, or premature release of those who may still be contagious. Ana’s paper, published in Science Advances , address this key issue by demonstrating direct detection of human adenovirus or SARS-CoV-2 with ability to inform infectivity using DNA aptamer-nanopore sensors. See news release from UIUC News Bureau. The paper has gathered attention from many news outlets, including Chemical and Engineering News and others.
2021 June | Meet “PANDA”, another gene scissor made with DNAzymes, first reported in Mingkuan’s paper. With “PANDA”, DNAzymes can now cut double-stranded DNA, making them powerful alternatives for protein-based genetic engineering systems. See the news release from UIUC News Bureau.
2021 Apr | Yiming has received this year’s Walter G Klemperer Dissertation Award in Materials Chemistry. Congratulations, Yiming!
2021 Mar | Mandira Banik has just received the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Congratulations, Mandy!
2021 Mar | Congratulations, Suds, Dr. Dwaraknath, for your successful PhD defense! Best wishes in your continued success in your postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab!
2020 Dec | Congratulations to Yiming, who won the 2020 SCS Science Image Challenge!
2020 Oct | Lu group is a member of a new five-year, $1.5 million Center for Pathogen Diagnostics (CPD) to create new detection systems.
2020 September | Lu group is a member of the team that has received $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a device that can detect cancer biomarkers with just a few drops of blood.