Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Yi Lu

Jay and Ann Schenck Professor of Chemistry

Professor Yi Lu received his B.S. from Peking University, P. R. China in 1986 and his Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles in 1992. After two years of postdoctoral research at California Institute of Technology, he joined the faculty at Illinois in 1994. Professor Yi Lu's research interests are in bioinorganic chemistry.


The Lu group's research interests lie at the interface between chemistry and biology. We are developing new chemical approaches to provide deeper insight into biological structures and functions. We are taking advantage of recently developed biological tools to advance many areas in chemistry, including bioinorganic, bioanalytical, and biomaterials chemistry. Bioorganic and biophysical methods and tools are also being used. Our main areas of research include:

 1. Biosynthetic inorganic chemistry and its application in environmentally benign catalysis in renewable energy generation and pharmaceuticals.

2. Fundamental understanding of DNAzymes and aptamers, and their applications in environmental monitoring, medical diagnostics, and targeted drug delivery.

3. Employing principles from biology for directed assembly of nanomaterials, and its applications in photonics and sensing.

For more and latest information about the Lu group research, please visit


Yingfu Li and Yi Lu (Editors) "Functional Nucleic Acids for Sensing and Other Analytical Applications," Springer, New York, NY (2009).

Masha G. Savelieff, Tiffany D. Wilson, Youssef Elias, Mark J. Nilges, Dewain K. Garner, and Yi Lu, "Experimental evidence for a link among cupredoxins: red, blue and purple copper transformations in nitrous oxide reductase," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA 105, 7919—7924 (2008).

Jung Heon Lee, Zidong Wang, Juewen Liu, and Yi Lu, "Highly Sensitive and Selective Colorimetric Sensors for Uranyl (UO22+): Development and Comparison of Labeled and Label-Free DNAzyme-Gold Nanoparticle Systems," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 14217-14226 (2008).

Zidong Wang, Jung Heon Lee, and Yi Lu, "Label-Free Colorimetric Detection of Lead Ions with a Nanomolar Detection Limit and Tunable Dynamic Range by using Gold Nanoparticles and DNAzyme," Adv. Mat. 20, 3263—3267 (2008).

Dewain Garner, Junglong Zhang, and Yi Lu, "Design and Engineering of Artificial Metalloproteins," Wiley Encyclopedia of Chemical Biology (doi: 10.1002/9780470048672.wecb397) (2008).

Daryl P. Wernette, Juewen Liu, Paul W. Bohn, and Yi Lu, "Functional DNA-Based Nanoscale Materials and Devices for Sensing Trace Contaminants in Water," MRS Bulletin 33, 34-41 (2008).

Mehmet Veysel Yigit, Debapriya Mazumdar, and Yi Lu, "MRI Detection of thrombin with aptamer functionalized superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles," Bioconjugate Chem 19, 412-417 (2008).

Lauren A. Denofrio, Brandy Russell, David Lopatto, and Yi Lu, "Linking Student Interests to Science Curricula," Science 318, 1872—1873 (2007).

Hee-Kyung Kim, Ivan Rasnik, Juewen Liu Taekjip Ha, and Yi Lu, "Dissecting metal ion dependent folding and catalysis of a single DNAzyme," Nature Chem. Biol. 3, 763-768 (2007).


  • Applied Inorganic Chemistry Award, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2007
  • Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry (SBIC) Early Career Award, 2007
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors Award, 2002
  • University Scholar Award (UIUC), 2002
  • Award Runner-up for the Biosensors and Bioelectronics Award, 2002
  • University of Illinois SCS Excellence in Teaching Award, 2000
  • Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, 1999
  • National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, 1998
  • Cottrell Scholars Award (Research Corporation), 1997
  • Beckman Young Investigator Award, 1996


"Smart Nanomaterials Inspired by Biology: Dynamic Assembly of Error-Free Nanomaterials in Response to Multiple Chemical and Biological Stimuli", published in Accounts of Chemical Research was featured on the ACS Publications website as one of the Most-Cited Articles published in 2007 and cited through the period ending December 31, 2007

Dr. Lu's paper on Chemical Education was published in one of the most impacted magzine of general science, Science, and highlighted by Chemical and Engineering Newsw published by ACS.

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Photo of Yi Lu