Wei Zhang

Assistant Professor

Dr. Wei Zhang joined the Department of Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Pittsburgh as an Assistant Professor in October 2023. Prior to Pitt, he was an Assistant Professor in Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School.

He received his BS degree in Chemistry from Peking University in 2011, and worked on liquid crystal polymers for light-emitting diodes in the lab of Prof. Qifeng Zhou. He received his PhD in Polymer Science in 2016 from the University of Akron with Prof. Stephen ZD Cheng’s (NAE), and worked on synthesis and supramolecular structures of precise macromolecules based on molecular nanoparticles and polymer-nanoparticle conjugates. Then, he did postdoc training at Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital with Profs. Daniel Kohane & Robert Langer, where he worked on various applications of biomedical materials, including photo-controlled drug delivery for local anesthesia, non-invasive local drug delivery system for otitis media, polymeric tissue adhesives, and drug-eluting contact lenses.

He is the author of 50 publications (17 as first, 3 as corresponding), and 4 patents (1 licensed to a company) by 2023, and he is a recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) Award.

The Zhang lab at Pitt conducts interdisciplinary research at the intersection of chemistry and pharmaceutical/biomedical science. Among many applications, we focus on pioneering new materials and therapies, especially in two key areas: wound healing (adhesives) and pain management (anesthetics). Our research involves the synthesis of both small molecules and polymers, designed to be responsive to various stimuli, such as light and ultrasound, so that they deliver efficacy in a controlled manner. Furthermore, we also study the interplay between molecular properties and macroscopic outcomes, elucidating the structure-property relationships, with the ultimate aim of optimizing therapeutic effectiveness.

For more information and a full list of publications, please visit our lab website.

Graduate Program Affiliation(s)
Pharmaceutics; Medicinal Chemistry (accepting graduate students)
Practice Area/Expertise
Synthetic chemistry, polymers, drug delivery, pain, wound healing, biomaterials, nano materials
Honors / Awards
NIH Pathway to Independence Award
The Anesthesia Research Distinguished Trailblazer Award
The Anesthesia Research Distinguished Ignition Award
DPS travel award
Outstanding reviewer for Polymer, Elsevier
Outstanding undergraduate thesis
First award of Beijing chemistry experiment competition for college student
First Award of National Chinese Chemistry Olympiad
Recent Publications

please visit our lab website for the full list

21. Zhang, W.; Wang, D., Ostertag-Hill, C.; Han, Y.; Li, X.; Zheng, Y.; Lu, B.; Kohane, D.S.*On-demand opioid reversal with an injectable light-triggered polymer-naloxone conjugate. Nano Letters (in press).

20. Zhang, W.; Ji, T.; Li, Y.; Zheng, Y.; Mehta, M.; Zhao, C.; Liu, A.; Kohane, D.S.* Light-triggered release of conventional local anesthetics from a macromolecular prodrug for on-demand local anesthesia. Nature Communications 2020, 11, 2323.

19. Zhang, W.; Ji, T.; Lyon, S.; Mehta, M.; Zheng, Y.; Deng, X.; Liu, A.; Shagan, A.; Mizrahi, B.;* Kohane, D.S.* Functionalized multiarmed polycaprolactones as biocompatible tissue adhesives. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2020, 12, 17314-17320.

18. Zhang, W.; Harty, B.; Zheng, Y.; Zhang, Z.; Li, X.; Wang, D.; Kohane, D.S.* Permeation of polyethylene glycols across the tympanic membrane. Giant 2021, 6, 10057.

17. Zhang, W.; Kohane, D.S.* Keeping nanomedicine on target. Nano Letters, 2021, 21, 3-5.

16. Zhang, W.; Lu, X.; Mao, J.; Hsu, C.-H.; Mu, G.; Huang, M.; Guo, Q.; Liu, H; Wesdemiotis, C.; Li, T.; Zhang, W.-B.;* Li, Y.;* Cheng, S. Z. D.* Sequence mandated, distinct assembly of giant molecules. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2017, 56, 15014-15019.

15. Guo, Q.-Y.#; Yan, X.-Y.# (co-first); Zhang, W.* (corresponding); Li, X.-H.; Xu, Y.; Dai, S.; Liu, Y.; Zhang, B.-X.; Feng, X.; Yin, J.; Han, D.; Huang, J.; Su, Z.; Liu, T.; Huang, M.; Hsu, C.-H.*; Cheng, S.Z.D.* Ordered Mesoporous Silica Pyrolyzed from Single-Source Self-Assembled Organic–Inorganic Giant Surfactants. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2021, 143, 12935–12942.

14. Zhang, W.; Huang, M.; Su, H.; Zhang, S.; Yue, K.; Dong, X.-H.; Li, X.; Liu, H.; Zhang, S.; Wesdemiotis, C.; Lotz, B.; Zhang, W.-B.;* Li, Y.;* Cheng, S. Z. D.* Toward controlled hierarchical heterogeneities in giant molecules with precisely arranged nano building blocks. ACS Central Science 2016, 2, 48-54. . <Featured by: Nature Nanotechnology 2016, 11, 213-213 and ACS Central Science 2016, 2, 62-64.>

13. Zhang, W.* Discrete Block Copolymers for Self-Assembly. ACS Central Science 2020, 6, 1278-1280.

12. Zhang, W.; Dong, X.; Cheng, S.Z.D.* Reaction: Precision Macromolecules for Self-Assembly. Chem 2019, 5, 492-493.

11. Shan, W.; Zhang, W.*(corresponding author); Huang, M.; Ji, Y.; Zhang, R.; Zhang, R.; Su, Z.; Liu, H.; Feng, X.; Guo, D.; Huang, J.; Liu, T.; Li, T.; Mao, J.; Wesdemiotis, C.; Cheng, S.Z.D.* Fine-Tuned Order-Order Phase Transitions in Giant Surfactants by Interfacial Engineering. Giant 2020, 1, 100002.

10. Jiang, J.; Wang, Y.; Jin, L.; Hsu, C.-H.; Zhang, S.; Mao, J.; Yin, W.; Li, T.; Ni, B.; Su, Z.; Huang, J.; Wesdemiotis, C.; Yue, K.; Zhang, W.*(corresponding author); Cheng, S.Z.D.* Modularly Constructed Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxane-Based Giant Molecules for Unconventional Nanostructure Fabrication. ACS Applied Nano Materials 2020, 3, 2952-2958. <selected as the cover of the journal>

9. Zhang, W.; Cao, Y.;* Lai, Z.; Yu, S.; Yang, T.; Liu, X.; Guo, Q.; Liu, Y.; Chen, W.; Huang, M.; Wang, J.; Cheng, S.Z.D. Hierarchical Structure with Unusual Honeycomb Fullerene-Scaffold by A Fullerene-Triphenylene Shape Amphiphile. Macromolecules 2020, 53, 6056-6062.

8. Zhang, W.; Zhang, S.; Guo, Q.; Lu, X.; Liu, Y.; Mao, J.; Wesdemiotis, C.; Li, T.; Li, Y.;* Cheng, S.Z.D.* Multilevel Manipulation of Supramolecular Structures of Giant Molecules via Macromolecular Composition and Sequence. ACS Macro Letters 2018, 7, 635–640.

7. Zhang, W.#; Chu, Y.# (co-first author); Mu, G.; Eghtesadi, S. A.; Liu, Y.; Zhou, Z.; Lu, X.; Kashfipour, M. A.; Lillard, R. S.; Yue, K.; Liu, T.;* Cheng, S. Z. D.* Rationally controlling the self-assembly behavior of tri-armed POSS-organic hybrid macromolecules: from giant surfactants to macroions. Macromolecules 2017, 50, 5042-5050.

6. Zhang, W.; Shan, W.; Zhang, S.; Liu, Y.; Su, H., Luo, J. Xia, Y.; Li, T., Wesdemiotis, C.; Liu, T.; Cui, H.; Li, Y.; Cheng, S.Z.D.* Sequence isomeric giant surfactants with distinct self-assembly behavior in solution. Chemical Communications 2019, 55, 636-639.

5. Chu, Y.#; Zhang, W.# (co-first author); Lu, X.; Mu, G.; Zhang, B.; Li, Y.;* Cheng, S. Z. D.;* Liu, T.* Rational controlled morphological transitions in the self-assembled multi-headed giant surfactants in solution. Chemical Communications 2016, 52, 8687-8690.

4. Zhang, W.; Liu, Y.; Huang, J.; Liu, T.; Xu, W.; Cheng, S.Z.D.; Dong, X.-H* Engineering self-assembly of giant molecules in condensed state based on molecular nanoparticles. Soft Matter 2019, 15, 7108-7116.

3. Feng, X.#; Lin, Z.#; Zhang, W.# (co-first author); Dong, X.-H.; Cheng, S. Z. D. Giant Molecules: A Unique and Efficient Soft Matter Platform to Construct Diverse Supramolecular Nanostructures. In Soft Matter and Biomaterials on the Nanoscale 2020, pp 109-151. (Book Chapter)

2. Zhang, W.; Jin, H.; Zhou, F.; Shen, Z.;* Zou, D.; Fan, X.* Synthesis and characterization of electrophosphorescent jacketed conjugated polymers. Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry 2012, 50, 3895-3903. (undergraduate at PKU)

1. Zhang, W.; Jin, H.; Wang, D.; Chu, Z.; Shen, Z.;* Zou, D.; Fan, X.* Jacketed homopolymer with bipolar dendritic side groups and its applications in electroluminescent devices. Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry 2012, 50, 581-589. (undergraduate at PKU)