Rong Wang

  • Professor of Chemistry
  • Graduate Director
  • Director, International Center for Sensor Science and Engineering


B.S. Jilin University
Ph.D. University of Tokyo


Representative publications:

  • "Light-Induced Amphiphilic Surfaces", R. Wang, K. Hashimoto, A. Fujishima, M. Chikuni, E. Kojima, A. Kitamura, M. Shimohigoshi and T. Watanabe, Nature, 388, 431 (1997).  (# citations: 4260)
  • "Photogeneration of Highly Amphiphilic TiO2 Surfaces", R. Wang, K. Hashimoto, A. Fujishima, M. Chikuni, E. Kojima, A. Kitamura, M. Shimohigoshi and T. Watanabe, Adv. Mater., 10, 135 (1998).<135::AID-ADMA135>3.0.CO;2-M.  (# citations: 1117)
  • “Direct Observation of Sol-Gel Conversion: the Role of the Solvent in Organogel Formation”, R. Wang, C. Geiger, L. Chen, B. I. Swanson, D. G. Whitten, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 122, 2399 (2000). citations: 257)
  • "Surfactant-Induced Modification of Quenching of Conjugated Polymer Fluorescence by Electron Acceptors: Applications for Chemical Sensing" L. Chen, D. McBranch, Rong Wang and D. Whitten, Chem. Phys. Lett., 330, 27 (2000). citations: 172)
  • “Morphogenesis of Bacillus Spore Surfaces”, Venkata G.R. Chada, Erik A. Sanstad, Rong Wang and Adam Driks, J. Bacter., 185, 6255-6261 (2003). citations: 213)
  • “Synthesis and Characterization of a Novel Photolabile Cross-Linker and Its application on Protein Photo-Delivery”, F. Yan; L. Chen; Q. Tang; R. Wang, Bioconjugate Chem. 15 1030 (2004). citations: 45)
  • “Hole-Enhanced Raman Scattering”, John T. Bahns, Funing Yan, Dengli Qiu, Rong Wang and Liaohai Chen, Appl. Spectros.60(9), 989-993 (2006). (# citations: 28).
  • “Adapting Collagen / CNT Matrix in Directing hESC Differentiation”, Indumathi Sridharan, Taeyoung Kim, Rong Wang, Biolchem. Biolphys. Res. Com., 381 (2009) 508–512. citations: 114)
  • “Structural and Mechanical Profiles of Native Collagen Fibers in Vaginal Wall Connective Tissues”, Indumathi Sridharan, Yin Ma, Taeyoung Kim, William Kobak, Jacob Rotmensch, Rong Wang, Biomaterials 33,1520-1527 (2012). . (# citations: 48)
  • “Effect of CNT on Collagen Fiber Structure, Stiffness, Assembly Kinetics and Stem Cell Differentiation”, Taeyoung Kim, Indumathi Sridharan, Bofan Zhu, Joseph Orgel, Rong Wang, Mater. Sci. Eng. C, 49: 281-289 (2015). citations: 51)
  • “E-spun Composite Fibers of Collagen and Dragline Silk Protein: Fiber Mechanics, Biocompatibility and Application in Stem Cell Differentiation”, Zhu B., Li W., Lewis R., Segre C., Wang R., Biomacromolecules, 16: 202−213 (2015). citations: 78)
  • “Identifying Distinct Nanoscopic Features of Native Collagen Fibrils towards Early Diagnosis of Pelvic Organ Prolapse”, Taeyoung Kim, Indumathi Sridharan, Yin Ma, Bofan Zhu, Naiwei Chi, William Kobak, Jacob Rotmensch, Jay D. Schieber, Rong Wang, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, 12: 667–675 (2016). citations: 37)
  • “Electrospun Protein-CNT Composite Fibers and the Application in Fibroblast Stimulation” by Naiwei Chi and Rong Wang, Biochem. Biophys. Res. Com., 504: 211-217 (2019). citations: 28)
  • “Altered mechanics of vaginal smooth muscle cells due to the lysyl oxidase-like1 knockout”. Ferreira JPS, Kuang M, Parente MPL, Natal Jorge RM, Wang R, Eppell SJ, Damaser M. Acta Biomater. Acta Biomater. 110:175-187 (2020).
  • “Features of Material Surfaces Affecting Virus Adhesion as Determined by Nanoscopic Quantification”, Ao Guo, Y. Carol Shieh, Rong R. Wang, Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, 602:125109 (2020).
  • “Nanofabrication of silicon surfaces for reduced virus adhesion”, Guo, A., Shieh, Y. C., Divan, R., & Wang, R. R. (2021) Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B. 39(1), 012801. .
  •  “Distinctive roles of fibrillar collagen I and collagen III in mediating fibroblast-matrix interaction: A nanoscopic study”. Li W, Chi N, Rathnayake RAC, Wang R. Biolchem. Biolphys. Res. Com. 560, 66-71 (2021).
  • “Role of photobleaching process of indocyanine green for killing neuroblastoma cells”, Clutter, E. D., Chen, L. L., & Wang, R. R. (2022). Biochemical and biophysical research communications589, 254–259. .
  •  “Distinctive structure, composition and biomechanics of collagen fibrils in vaginal wall connective tissues associated with pelvic organ prolapse”, Chi N., Lozo S., Rathnayake A.C.R., Botros S., Ma Y., Damaser, M. and Wang R.R. (2022), Acta Biomaterialia. 152:335-344.  
  • “Electrospun Silk Fibroin-CNT Composite Fibers: Structure, Function and Application in Fibroblast Stimulation”,Rathnayake A.C.R, Shinhae Yoon, Zheng S., Elwin Clutter, Wang R., Polymers (2023) 15(1), 91;



I have expertise in bioconjugate chemistry, molecular imaging, nano/micro-fabrication, cell biology and material engineering. My research focuses on developing novel methods, materials and devices for detection and intervention of bioprocesses. Students receive training in biochemistry, biophysics, analytical chemistry, surface chemistry, composite materials and cell biology through the following on-going research projects:

  • Examination of structure-function relationship for collagen in native tissues. Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in connective tissues. Defects in collagen fiber and fiber network were frequently linked to health conditions, aging and diseases. Aiming to reveal the correlations of collagen’s biochemical, biophysical and biomechanical features with patients’ clinical conditions, my group has carried out studies of collagen on the nanoscopic to macroscopic scales in pelvic floor connective tissues harvested from patients with pelvic organ prolapse (POP) (via collaborations with surgeons in Rush and NorthShore hospitals). The work opens up the opportunity of assessing collagen functionality via a clinical test during a patient’s visit. It allows clinicians to alert any pre-symptomatic conditions, to employ peculiar treatment for preventing further development of the condition, and to reduce unneeded invasive surgical procedures. Examination of the multi-scale structure, composition and mechanics of collagen, elastin and smooth muscle cells as well as the integration/deterioration of these tissue components is under way to elucidate their association with the emergence and progression of POP. 
  • Development of biocomposite materials as tissue engineering scaffolds. The research on the structure-function relationship of collagen furnishes the design principles for tissue engineering scaffolds. Accordingly, we have developed biocomposite materials in an effort of modulating the biochemical composition and biophysical properties of cell culture matrices.  Particularly, single-walled CNT was incorporated in collagen, spider silk or silkworm silk protein to generate biocomposite fibers by electrospinning. The addition of a minute amount of CNT effectively improved protein fiber alignment, mechanical strength and electrical conductivity while retained high biocompatibility, mimicking native collagen fibers in the matrix of connective tissues. The composite fibers effectively mediated electrical stimulation of patients’ fibroblasts to boost collagen productivity. The developed approach offers a simple, direct and effective way to restore the function of patients’ cells which can be potentially used for personalized cell therapeutic treatment of diseases (e.g., chronic wound of diabetes patients) and health conditions (e.g., pelvic organ prolapse) associated with collagen disorder. Undergoing research includes the examination of these cells’ functionality in remodeling the decellularized or engineered matrices of connective tissues. This offers a simple, direct and quick assessment of the functionality of the stimulated cells, allowing timely feedback for adjusting parameters to further optimize the stimulation conditions. Histological outcome of the tissues after local injection of the stimulated cells will also be evaluated in a mouse model to establish the feasibility.
  • Salivary sensor for label-free detection of periodontal causative oral bacteria. Periodontitis is an inflammatory disorder initiated by the accumulation of predominantly anaerobic Gram-negative bacteria in subgingival sites, which induce local and systemic inflammatory changes and promote the loss of attachment and alveolar bone. These clinical changes are associated with changes in the microbial composition of adherent plaque at or below the gingival margin. Since periodontitis often progresses without noticeable symptoms, patients are often unaware of their pathologic condition until the periodontal destruction progresses to the point of no return. A simple, rapid, direct method to detect shifts in the resident microbial species is ideal for longitudinal monitoring to provide timely assessment and is expected to improve the medical outcomes dramatically. In this project, we will apply the nanohole-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (HERS) to establish a high throughput, hyperspectral imaging approach. Coupled with machine learning, each microbial species can be identified via its signature Raman signal to achieve simultaneous detection of eight microbial species in patients’ saliva on a microfluidic chip. The sensing modality will enable label-free, rapid, reusable, potentially unlimited multiplex detection at high sensitivity and high specificity, and will facilitate the development of a portable salivary sensor device for convenient use in a dentist’s office or at home. Fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) will also be explored as an alternative sensing modality.
  • IR-responsive polymer in sensor application. PolyN-isopropylacrylamide (PNIPAAm) is a thermo-responsive polymer. Aqueous solutions of PNIPAAm show a lower critical solution temperature (LCST). PNIPAAm chains hydrate to form expanded structures in water when the temperature is below its LCST, but become compact structures by dehydration when heated above its LCST. The temperature-sensitive polymer has been widely studied for its application in sensing, drug delivery, filtration and as a food packaging material. My group discovered recently that incorporation of graphene oxide (GO) in PNIPAAm rendered rapid bending of the polymer in response to IR irradiation. We develop PNIPAAm-based composite materials as thermally responsive and tunable films, fibers and microgels, and explore their gating behavior in applications of disease diagnosis, treatment, as well as drug or odor compound encapsulation and release, among others.