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Prof. Fei SUN

Research Area | Research Interests | Current Research Activities | Teaching Assignments | Publications

Research Area

Bioengineering - Protein Engineering, Protein Materials, Directed Evolution and Synthetic Biology

Research Interests

Synthetic Biology Approaches to New Materials, Genetically Encoded Click Chemistry, Directed Evolution, Therapeutic Delivery, Optogenetics, Biosensing, Marine Minerals and Ocean Mining

Current Research Activities

1. Synthetic Biology Approaches toward New Materials

A central question facing the bottom-up approach for material design is how to transfer the function at the molecular level to the material properties at the macroscopic level. In the past years, there has been a growing trend of designing materials with dynamically tunable properties. These 'smart' materials necessitate a new level of control over the structural and functional properties of macromolecules as well as their interactions with external stimuli. While natural evolution has led to the creation of a vast number of protein molecules with extraordinary structural and functional diversity, such an ecological diversity has yet to be fully utilized to design and create functional materials with dynamic properties. Taking advantage of synthetic biology tools, we focus on the strategies that enable the direct assembly of genetically engineered protein molecules into functional macroscopic materials for a variety of applications ranging from regenerative medicine, therapeutic delivery, sea mining to environmental remediation.


2. Genetically Encoded Click Chemistry: Unleashing Chemical Power from Protein Sequence Space

Synthesis of macromolecular systems with precise structural and functional control constitutes a fundamental challenge for materials science and engineering. Development of the ability to construct complex bio-macromolecular architectures provides a solution to this challenge. The past few years have witnessed the emergence of a new category of chemistry which can covalently stitch together protein/peptide molecules with high specificity under mild physiological conditions. It has thus led to the concept of genetically encoded click chemistry (GECC). A prototypical GECC, Spy chemistry, enabled the synthesis of precise macromolecules both in vitro and in vivo while exerting precise control over the fundamental properties of these macromolecules including length, sequence, stereochemistry and topology. The same chemistry further led to the creation of diverse biomaterials for a variety of applications. We will continue to enrich and diversify the GECC toolbox through directed evolution and other protein engineering methods. By bridging the two fields, synthetic biology and materials science, the development of a palette of orthogonal GECCs, reminiscent of the epic of fluorescent proteins, will provide us with enormous opportunities for future material design.

Teaching Assignments

2020-21 Fall: CBME6000E - Protein Engineering
2020-21 Fall: CENG1600 - Biotechnology and Its Business Opportunities
2020-21 Fall: BIEN6800S - Bioengineering Seminar
2020-21 Spring: ENGG4902 - Integrated Final Year Project - Second Major
2020-21 Spring: CENG4920 - Chemical Engineering Capstone Design
2020-21 Spring: BIEN6800T - Bioengineering Seminar
2020-21 Spring: CENG4640 - Biomolecular Engineering
2019-20 Spring: CENG4640 - Biomolecular Engineering
2019-20 Summer: UROP3100A - Undergraduate Research Opportunities Series 3
2019-20 Summer: CENG4940 - Chemical Engineering Industrial Project

Recent Publications

  • Li, Tiehuai; Wang, Jing; Zhu, Shangqian; Delmo, Ernest Pahuyo; Sun, Fei; Zhang, Lili; Gu, Meng; Shao, Minhua "Cu<sub>3</sub>Pd<sub>x</sub>N nanocrystals for efficient CO<sub>2</sub> electrochemical reduction to methane", Electrochimica Acta, v. 371, March 2021, article number 137793 (2021)
  • Xu, Lianjie; Wang, Xinyu; Sun, Fei; Cao, Yi; Zhong, Chao; Zhang, Wen Bin "Harnessing proteins for engineered living materials", Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science, v. 25, (1), February 2021, article number 100896 (2021)
  • Sun, Fei; He, Chuan "Reaction: Engineer Biology for Uranium", Chem, v. 7, (2), February 2021, p. 274-275 (2021)
  • Yang, Zhongguang; Sun, Fei "Self-Assembly and Genetically Engineered Hydrogels", Tunable Hydrogels: Smart Materials for Biomedical Applications / Edited by Antonina Lavrentieva, Iliyana Pepelanova, Dror Seliktar. Switzerland : Springer Nature, 2021, p. 169-196, Book Series: Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology, v. 178 (2021)
  • Wei, X.; Fang, C.; Gong, B.; Shao, X.; Sun, Fei; Qian, J.; Lin, Y. "Time-dependent response of bio-polymer networks regulated by catch and slip bond-like kinetics of cross-linkers", Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, v. 147, February 2021, article number 104267 (2021)

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