Zhao Lab





Siwei Zhao, PhD – Principal Investigator
DRC II 6029
UNMC, Omaha, NE 68198-5965
Phone: 402-559-9952
Email: siwei.zhao@unmc.edu


Dr. Zhao’s lab aims to develop hydrogel biomaterial-based, ionic circuit systems that truly match with and seamlessly interface with living biological systems for improved information exchange and long-term in vivo utility. Our research is primarily focused on three aspects: 1) to develop novel, high performance hydrogel ionic materials that allow stable separation between highly conductive ionic phase (the conductive traces of the circuits) and low-conductivity hydrogel phase (non-conductive substrate of the circuits); 2) to design hydrogel ionic circuit architectures that permit high resolution routing of ionic current/voltage with minimal attenuation; and 3) to develop novel wearable or implantable electronic systems based on these hydrogel ionic circuits for sensing tissue-level electrical activities and delivering safe electrical stimulations. We hope these hydrogel ionic circuits will form the basis of biologically matched and integrated electronic interfaces in the future and will have broad applications in diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.



  1. Siwei Zhao, Abijeet Singh Mehta, Min Zhao, Biomedical applications of electrical stimulation, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-019-03446-1
  2. Siwei Zhao, Chengchen Guo, Allison Kumarasena, Fiorenzo G. Omenetto and David L. Kaplan, 3D printing of functional microalgal silk structures for environmental applications, ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng., 2019, https://doi.org/10.1021/acsbiomaterials.9b00554
  3. Yu Wang, Wenyi Li, Meng Li, Siwei Zhao, et al., Biomaterial‐Based “Structured Opals” with Programmable Combination of Diffractive Optical Elements and Photonic Bandgap Effects, Advanced Materials, 2019, 31 (5), 1805312
  4. Jiannan Li, Siwei Zhao, et al., Combinatorial Peptide Microarray Synthesis Based on Microfluidic Impact Printing, ACS Combinatorial Science, 2018, 21 (1), pp 6-10
  5. Siwei Zhao, et al., Programmable hydrogel ionic circuits for biologically-matched electronic interfaces, Advanced Materials, 2018, 30 (25), 1800598
  6. Jiannan Li, Randy P. Carney, Ruiwu Liu, Jinzhen Fan, Siwei Zhao, et al., Microfluidic Print-to-Synthesis Platform for Efficient Preparation and Screening of Combinatorial Peptide Microarrays, Analytical Chemistry, 2018, 90, pp 5833–5840
  7. Zhenghua Zhu, Shengjie Ling, Jingjie Yeo, Siwei Zhao, et al., High-strength, durable all-silk fibroin hydrogels with versatile processability toward multi-functional applications, Advanced Functional Materials, 2018, 28, 1704757
  8. Wenda Zhou, Ying Chen, Terrence Roh, Yinan Lin, Shengjie Lin, Siwei Zhao, et al., Multifunctional bioreactor system for human intestine tissues, ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, 2018, 4, pp 231–239
  9. Paolo Minzioni, Roberto Osellame, Cinzia Sada, Siwei Zhao, et al., Roadmap on optofluidics: Silk fibroin films for biophotonic and microfluidic applications (invited review), Journal of Optics, 2017, 19, 093003
  10. Peter Tseng, Bradley Napier, Siwei Zhao, et al., Directed assembly of bio-inspired hierarchical materials with controlled nanofibrillar architectures, Nature Nanotechnology, 2017, 12, pp 474–480
  11. Peter Tseng, Siwei Zhao, et al., Evaluation of Silk Inverse Opals for “Smart” Tissue Culture, ACS Omega, 2017, 2 (2), pp 470–477
  12. Siwei Zhao, et al., Bio-Functionalized Silk Hydrogel Microfluidic Systems, Biomaterials, 2016, 93, 60-70
  13. L Tozzi, CA Di Buduo, WK Raja, Y Chen, Siwei Zhao, et al., Silk Based Microfluidic Device for the Imaging of Platelet Production, Tissue Engineering Part A, 2015, 21, S246-S247
  14. Gao, Siwei Zhao, et al., A large-scale screen reveals genes that mediate electrotaxis in Dictyostelium discoideum, Science Signaling, 2015, Vol. 8, Issue 378, pp. ra50
  15. Siwei Zhao, et al., ElectroTaxis-on-a-Chip (ETC): an Integrated Quantitative High-throughput Screening Platform for Electrical Field-Directed Cell Migration, Lab Chip, 2014,14, 4398-4405
  16. Lin Cao, Colin D McCaig, Roderick H Scott, Siwei Zhao, et al., Polarizing intestinal epithelial cells electrically through Ror2, Journal of Cell Science, 2014, 127: 3233-3239
  17. Siyuan Xing, Siwei Zhao and Tingrui Pan, Print-to-print: a facile multi-object micro-patterning technique, Biomedical Microdevices, 2013, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 233-240
  18. Lin Cao, Dongguang Wei, Brian Reid, Siwei Zhao, et al., Endogenous electric currents might guide rostral migration of neuroblasts, EMBO reports, 2013, 14, 184-190
  19. Xinwei Wang, Siwei Zhao, et al., Bubble formation on superhydrophobic-micropatterned copper surfaces, Applied Thermal Engineering, vol. 35, pp. 112-119, March 2012
  20. Siwei Zhao, et al., Stereomask lithography (SML): a universal multi-object micro-patterning technique for biological applications, Lab Chip, 2011, 11, 224-230
  21. Wei Wang*, Siwei Zhao* and Tingrui Pan, Lab-on-a-print: from a single polymer film to three-dimensional integrated microfluidics, Lab Chip, 2009, 9, 1133 – 1137. *: joint first author
  22. Siwei Zhao, et al., Direct projection on dry-film photoresist (DP2): do-it-yourself three-dimensional polymer microfluidics, Lab Chip, 2009, 9, 1128 – 1132
  23. Siwei Zhao, et al., Linearity and dissociative antigen noise analyses of competitive microfluidic heterogeneous immunoadsorption, Biomedical Microdevices, 2008, 10(4), pp519-529

Book Chapters

  1. Trisha M. Pfluger and Siwei Zhao, The Impact of Electric Fields on Cell Processes, Membrane Proteins and Intracellular Signaling Cascades, Conductive Polymers: Electrical Interactions in Cell Biology and Medicine, CRC Press, April 14, 2017
  2. Siwei Zhao, Arnold Chen, Alex Revzin and Tingrui Pan, Stereomask lithography for multi-protein patterning, Methods in Cell Biology Volume 119 Micropatterning in Cell Biology Part A, ELSEVIER, 2014
  3. Siyuan Xing, Siwei Zhao, Tingrui Pan, Print-to-Print: Printer-Enabled Out-of-Cleanroom Multiobject Microprinting Method, Methods in Cell Biology Volume 119 Micropatterning in Cell Biology Part A, ELSEVIER, 2014


  1. Siwei Zhao, US Provisional Patent Application No. 62/912,342 entitled “Multifunctional Ionic Circuit System for Electrical Stimulation and Drug Therapy” filed October 8, 2019.
  2. David L. Kaplan, Siwei Zhao, Fiorenzo G. Omenetto. US Provisional Patent Application No. 62/840,295 entitled “Systems and Methods for Living Silk Articles” filed April 29, 2019.
  3. Siwei Zhao, Peter Tseng, Jonathan Grasman, Yu Wang, Fiorenzo G. Omenetto, David L. Kaplan. US Patent Application No. 16/153,759 entitled “Programmable Hydrogel Ionic Circuits for Biologically-Matched Electronic Interfaces” filed October 6, 2018.
  4. S. Lightfoot Vidal, R. Abbott, S. Zhao, F. Omenetto, D. L. Kaplan. US Provisional Patent Application No. 62/357,775 entitled “Innervated Artificial Skin” filed July 1, 2016.

Lab Members


Dr. Siwei Zhao, Principal Investigator

Dr. Siwei Zhao received his BS degree in 2007, from the Department of Microelectronics, Peking University. He then conducted his PhD study in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Davis with Prof. Tingrui Pan. His doctoral research was mainly focused on the development of novel and unconventional fabrication techniques for microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip devices. He has applied these devices to both basic biomedical studies and translational research, including using high throughput lab-on-a-chip devices to study cellular response to electrical stimulation and using microfluidic systems to synthesize and screen large random peptide libraries for cancer-specific ligands. He received his Ph.D. in 2013. After that, he joined Prof. David Kaplan’s group as a postdoctoral research associate at Tufts University.  In Kaplan lab, his research centered on the development of hydrogel biomaterial-based engineering systems with improved biological interface. A silk hydrogel microfluidic scaffold was developed for long-term, three dimensional tissue culture and the results were published in Biomaterials. At the same time, he utilized hydrogel materials to redesign electrical circuits. A new hydrogel-based circuit system, capable of conducting ion currents, was developed. This hydrogel ionic circuit was mechanically compliant and was able to deliver electrical stimulation to biological tissues. The results were reported in Advanced Materials. Since March 2019, he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). He is a part of the Holland Regenerative Medicine Program and his home department is the Department of Surgery-Transplant. He is highly motivated to pursue an interdisciplinary research career at the interface of the life sciences and engineering. His current research interests include developing truly biologically matched electrical systems to significantly improve the efficacy and safety of electrical stimulation-based therapies for wound healing, nerve regeneration, pain management and drug delivery.


Dr. Fan Zhao, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Fan Zhao received his PhD degree in Biomedical Textile Materials and Technologies from the Donghua University, Shanghai, China in 2019. He joined Zhao Lab in July 2019 as a postdoctoral research associate. His research interests include development of wearable and implantable ionic-based medical devices for intraocular drug delivery and wound healing.


Dr. Junying Wang, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Junying Wang (1990) received her master degree of medicine in Peking Union Medical College and received her PhD from Tianjin University in 2019, majoring in material physics and chemistry. Her research interest is wound healing and the treatment for posterior segment of eye diseases.


Prof. Mark A. Carlson, MD, UNMC & Omaha VA Medical Center

Prof. Deepta A. Ghate, MD, UNMC & Nebraska Medicine