Zi Chen

Born in: China
Primary research category: Biomedical Engineering
Research location / employer: Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, USA
Fellowship dates: 2012-2017

Academic Career

  • Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA, 2022–present
  • Lead Investigator, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Member of the Faculty at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, 2021–present
  • Assistant Professor in Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, USA, 2015-2021
  • Research Scientist in Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, USA, 2014–2015
  • Research Scientist in Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, USA, 2013–2014
  • Postdoctoral researcher in Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, USA, 2011–2013
  • PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, USA, 2012
  • MSc in Materials Physics and Chemistry, Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, 2005

Fellowship Research

Dr. Zi Chen’s research interests range from solid mechanics and material science to biomechanics and mechanobiology, covering such diverse topics as mechanical instabilities of materials, energy harvesting devices, biomimetic robotics, origami structures, nanofabrication, mechanics of morphogenesis in biological systems (embryonic development, biofilm growth, etc.), and cell biomechanics (e.g., epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer cell migration).

Mechanical forces play a key role in the shaping of versatile morphologies, especially chiral structures, in both natural and engineered systems. Understanding the role of mechanical stresses and strains is key to deciphering morphogenesis, growth, and collective cell migration. The progress of mechanics in these aspects will facilitate understanding of fundamental problems in mathematics, physics and biology, as well as advance technology of designing smart, stimuli-responsive materials and devices with broad applications in mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering.

Major Contributions

  • Unveiling the mechanical principles of multistability in thick origami structures
  • Achieving a multiscale understanding of the biomechanics of venus flytrap’s rapid otion
  • Examining mechanical self-assembly and instability of thin structures at multiple length scales
  • Studying the mechanics of morphogenesis in embryonic brain and heart development

Major Awards

  • International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM) Innovation Award, 2020
  • National Institute of Health U01 sub-award, 2015-2020
  • Young Investigator Award (co-PI), National Science Foundation of China, 2012-2015
  • American Academy of Mechanics Founder’s Award, 2012
  • Silver Medal, Materials Research Society Graduate Student Award, 2012
  • Sigma Xi GIAR (Grant-in-aid of Research) Award, 2011
  • Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Princeton University, 2006-2007
  • Sayre Graduate Prize, Princeton University, 2006