David Zhang

Hertz Fellow: David Zhang

California Institute of Technology

Area of Study

Computation and Neural Systems

Fellowship Years

2006 - 2010

David (Dave) Zhang, PhD, is the Ted Law Jr. Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University (Rice), and the technical co-founder of Searna Technologies. Moreover, he leads the Nucleic Acid Bioengineering Laboratory (NABLab) at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative. In an era where $100,000+ drugs extend life spans by six months, Dave believes that the overall health of members of society can better be improved through early, economical, and noninvasive detection of diseases. Dave's current research is focused on developing technologies to enable detection of rare pathogen DNA and cancer DNA. In addition to academic research, Dave actively works to commercialize technology, with a current focus in cancer profiling and monitoring from cell-free DNA.

Dave received his Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship in 2006, and with its support pursued his PhD in computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology. His thesis, "Dynamic DNA Strand Displacement Circuits", recapitulated his 10 graduate publications in the field of DNA nanotechnology. Dave was primarily interested in engineering dynamic and autonomously reconfigurable nucleic acid devices using the specific Watson-Crick hybridization properties of DNA. Such devices could potentially be used for diagnostic, imaging, and therapeutic biotechnological applications. At that time, Dave was working to develop an addressable and kinetic controlled DNA self-assembly system that forms different structures in the presence of different nucleic acids. As a postdoc, Dave was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation, and worked at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard Medical School.

In his spare time, Dave enjoys reading nonfiction (particularly economics and game theory), and playing board games.


2010 - Dynamic DNA Strand Displacement Circuits