Huimin Zhao

Huimin Zhao
Huimin Zhao
  • Steven L. Miller Chair
(217) 333-2631
215 Roger Adams Laboratory

Develops and applies synthetic biology, machine learning, and laboratory automation tools to engineer functionally improved or novel proteins, pathways, and genomes for biotechnological and biomedical applications; investigates the protein structure-function relationship, cell metabolism, and mechanisms of gene expression and regulation.

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Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering, and Director of NSF AI Research Institute for Molecule Synthesis ( at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Nobel Laureate Dr. Frances Arnold. Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company. He was promoted to full professor in 2008. Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 340 research articles and over 30 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry. In addition, he has given plenary, keynote or invited lectures in over 390 international meetings, universities, industries, and research institutes. Twenty-five (25) of his former graduate students and postdocs became professors or principal investigators in the United States (9), China (Mainland 10, Taiwan 1), Korea (2), Singapore (2), and Egypt (1).


  • Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 1998
  • B.S., University of Science and Technology of China, 1992

Research Interests

  • Molecular Bioengineering and Biotechnology

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Selected Articles in Journals

  • X. Huang, B. Wang, Y. Wang, G. Jiang, J. Feng, and H. Zhao. “Photoenzymatic Enantioselective Intermolecular Radical Hydroalkylation.” Nature, 584, 69–74 (2020).
  • B. Wang, F. Guo, C. Huang, and H. Zhao. “Unraveling the Iterative Type I Polyketide Synthases Hidden in Streptomyces.” Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117, 8449-8454 (2020).
  • Y. Yu, Y. Guo, Q. Tian, H. Yeh, Y. Lan, M. Zhang, I. Tasan, S. Jain, and H. Zhao. “An Efficient Gene Knock-in Strategy Using 5’-Modified Double-stranded DNA Donors with Short Homology Arms.” Nature Chemical Biology, 16, 387–390 (2020).
  • J. Lian, C. Shultz, M. Cao, M. HamediRad, and H. Zhao. “Multi-functional Genome-wide CRISPR System for High Throughput Genotype-Phenotype Mapping.” Nature Communications, 10:5794 (2019).
  • M. HamediRad, R. Chao, S. Weisberg, J. Lian, S. Sinha, and H. Zhao. “Towards a Fully-Automated Algorithm-Driven Platform for Biosystems Design.” Nature Communications, 10:5150 (2019).
  • B. Wang, F. Guo, S. H. Dong, and H. Zhao. “Activation of Silent Biosynthetic Gene Clusters Using Transcription Factor Decoys.” Nature Chemical Biology, 15, 111–114 (2019).
  • T. Si, Q. Tian, Y. Min, L. Zhang, J. V. Sweedler, W. A. van der Donk, and H. Zhao. “Rapid Structure-activity Screening of Lanthipeptide Analogs via In-colony Removal of Leader Peptides in Escherichia coli.” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 140, 11884-11888 (2018).
  • Z. Litman, Y. Wang, H. Zhao, and J. F. Hartwig. “Cooperative Asymmetric Reactions Combining Photocatalysis and Enzymatic Catalysis.” Nature, 560, 355-359 (2018).
  • Z. Bao, M. HamediRad, P. Xue, H. Xiao, I. Tasan, R. Chao, J. Liang, and H. Zhao. “Genome-scale Engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with Single Nucleotide Precision.” Nature Biotechnology, 36, 505–508 (2018).
  • J. Liang, Y. Luo, and H. Zhao. "Synthetic Biology: Put Synthesis in Biology." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Systems Biology and Medicine, 3, 7-20 (2011).


  • Enzyme Engineering Award, Engineering Conferences International, 2019
  • Marvin Johnson Award in Microbial and Biochemical Technology, American Chemical Society, 2018
  • Biotechnology Progress Award for Excellence in Biological Engineering Publication, AIChE, 2017
  • Charles Thom Award, Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2016
  • Elmer Gaden Award, John Wiley & Sons and American Chemical Society Division of Biochemical Technology, 2014
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 2012
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2010

  • Keck Futures Intiative Grant, National Academies, 2010
  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, 2009
  • Plenary Lecture in Biochemical Engineering, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2009
  • Young Investigator Award, American Chemical Society Division of Biochemical Technology, 2008
  • Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, College of Engineering, University of Illinois, UC, 2008
  • Outstanding Overseas Young Chinese Scholars Award, Chinese National Science Foundation, 2007
  • University Scholar, University of Illinois, UC, 2007
  • Helen Corley Petit Scholar, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois, UC, 2006-2007
  • Beckman Fellow, Center for Advanced Study, 2005-2006
  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research, College of Engineering, University of Illinois, UC, 2005
  • Young Investigator Award, Dupont, 2005
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, School of Chemical Sciences, University of Illinois, UC, 2004
  • CAREER Award, National Science Foundation, 2004
  • Collins Scholar, Academy of Excellence in Engineering Education, 2001
  • Special Recognition Award, Dow Chemical Company, 1999, 2000

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