I grew up in a small town in the southeast part of China and then went to college to major in Chemistry at Xiamen University, which is located at the seaside and considered one of the most beautiful campuses in China.

After college, I went to graduate school at Michigan State University in Babak Borhan’s lab. There, I first experienced the power and beauty of protein engineering. To understand what contributes to the different colors of our retinal pigments, I used protein engineering to recapitulate the color tuning observed in our eye pigments. I was able to regulate the color of vitamin A aldehyde across the visible light spectrum via fine tuning of the electrostatics in the protein binding pocket.

Deeply intrigued by the light–protein interactions and with a desire to expand my protein engineering skills, I then joined Alice Ting’s lab at MIT for my postdoctoral work. Using directed evolution protein engineering methods, I was able to design a light sensing protein-based tool to label neuronal circuits underlying specific behaviors with gene expression. During my postdoc, I moved from the east coast to the west coast when the Ting lab relocated to Stanford University. That was an absolutely wonderful experience as I got to explore the scenery and foods in both coasts. 

I joined the U-M Life Sciences Institute and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan in 2018. I am very excited to have my own team with the overarching goal of designing novel molecular tools with widespread utilities across the subfields of cell biology and neuroscience to facilitate biological studies. Cutting-edge protein engineering methods will be utilized to optimize the overall performance of the tools and we will validate the tools in yeast cell cultures, mammalian cell cultures, neuronal cultures and animal models.

Office: 4115A
Life Sciences Institute
Mary Sue Coleman Hall
210 Washtenaw Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2216

Research Areas

  • chemical biology
  • protein engineering
  • neuroscience
  • cell biology
  • optogenetics
  • B.S., Chemistry, Xiamen University, China (2006)
  • Ph.D., Bioorganic Chemistry, Michigan State University (2012)
  • Postdoctoral associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2012-2016)
  • Postdoctoral associate, Stanford University (2016-2018)
  • Education Merit Fellowships (twice), Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University (2006-2011)
  • Jeremy R. Knowles Memorial Travel Award, Bioorganic Gordon Research Conference, NH (2011)
  • Infinite Kilometer Award, School of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2016)
  • University of Michigan Biological Sciences Scholar (2018)
  • NIH Director's New Innovator Award (2022)
  • 2023 Rising Star in Measurement Science, ACS Measurement Science Au (2023)


  • Ting, A.Y., Wang, W. "Light-Activated, Calcium-Gated Polypeptide and Methods of Use Thereof." U.S. Patent Application No. 62/440,857, Filed on 12/30/2016
  • Ting, A.Y., Wang, W. "Protein-Protein Interaction Detection Systems and Methods of Use Thereof." U.S. Patent Application No. 62/440,825, Filed on 12/30/2016
  • Borhan, B., Geiger, J., Wang, W., Vasileiou, C., Lee, K.S.S., Berbasova, T. "New Colorimetric and Fluorescent Fusion Protein Tags", U.S. Patent 636,499, 06/20/2013