Dr. Wujie Zhang has dreamt of being a teacher for as long as he can remember. His mother taught at a school specializing in agriculture in the small rural community of Mei County, Baoji City, Shaanxi Province, China, where Zhang grew up. “My mother enjoyed a rewarding career, teaching and enriching other people’s lives,” he said. “She was immensely enriched by her students and their successes. I am devoted to continuing her passion, dedicating my life to teaching and serving others.”

Zhang planned to study electrical or computer engineering due to their popularity in China. However, the admissions office at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology changed his major to food science and engineering, a practice that is not uncommon at Chinese universities. Upon graduation, he turned down a job offer from a large brewer and pursued a master’s degree. During that time he conducted his research at the Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital where he worked in the Shanghai Key Laboratory of Orthopaedic Implants.

“I realized then that I was really interested in biomedical engineering—especially in stem cell-based medicine, biomaterials, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and drug delivery,” Zhang said.

That research is ultimately what led Zhang to the United States where he earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of South Carolina and completed post-doctoral work at Ohio State University. His work in Ohio included cancer treatment and bionanotechnology.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a drug molecule or stem cell/cancer cells, biomaterials always link all of these fields together,” said Zhang.

Students in MSOE’s biomolecular engineering program are now benefitting from Zhang’s insight and experience. He has led several senior projects based on a biomaterial known as pectin that have focused on drug delivery for cancer treatment, 3D printing for tissue engineering, and engineering artificial red blood cells.

Zhang has been able to combine all of his interests in his role at MSOE. “I joined the MSOE faculty when the biomolecular engineering program was looking for someone with expertise in biopolymers, drug delivery and nanotechnology—those happen to be all my fields.”

After meeting MSOE students during his interview, Zhang was sold. “The students impressed me deeply,” he said.

Zhang has two favorite courses to teach: Engineering Controlled Drug Delivery and Cell Biology and Genetics. “Because of my background as a bioengineer and intensive research experience with cells, it is always fun to show students the importance of the lecture material from a bioengineering point of view,” said Zhang.

Seeing students understand the importance of drug delivery and ultimately find jobs in the pharmaceutical industry is a point of pride for Zhang. He also appreciates opportunities for cross-discipline collaboration and professional development.

“I feel like I’m part of MSOE, not just a number. I really enjoy working with my incredible peers and talented students,” he said. “I am having an awesome experience working with students in and outside the classroom. Five peer-reviewed journal articles have been published with MSOE students as first and/or co-authors through senior design and summer
research.”

When he’s not on campus, Zhang enjoys hiking in Lapham Peak State Park, Pokémon hunting and taking care of his three aquariums, which are filled with unique fish. He is happily married and lives on the East Side of Milwaukee.

Zhang advises the MSOE Chinese Students Association, holds two patents and was named recipient of the 2016 Karl O. Werwath Engineering Research Award and 2016 Falk Engineering Educator Award.