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


Seyed-Fakhreddin Torabi, Peiwen Wu, Claire E. McGhee, Lu Chen, Kevin Hwang, Nan Zheng, Jianjun Cheng, and Yi Lu "In vitro selection of a sodium-specific DNAzyme and its application in intracellular sensing," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112, 5903–5908 (2015).

Yang Yu, Xiaoxuan Lv, Jiasong Li, Qing Zhou, Chang Cui, Parisa Hosseinzadeh, Arnab Mukherjee, Mark J. Nilges, Jiangyun Wang and Yi Lu, "Defining the Role of Tyrosine and Rational Tuning of Oxidase Activity by Genetic Incorporation of Unnatural Tyrosine Analog," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 137, 4594-4597 (2015).

Li Huey Tan, Hang Xing and Yi Lu, "DNA as a Powerful Tool for Morphology Control, Spatial Positioning and Dynamic Assembly of Nanoparticles," Acc. Chem. Res. 47, 1881–1890 (2014).

Hang Xing, Kevin Hwang, Ji Li, Seyed-Fakhreddin Torabi, and Yi Lu, "DNA Aptamer Technology for Future Personalized Medicine," Curr. Opin. Chem. Eng. 4, 79-87 (2014).

Igor D. Petrik, Jing Liu and Yi Lu, "Metalloenzyme Design and Engineering through Strategic Modifications of Native Protein Scaffolds," Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol. 19, 67–75 (2014).

Seyed-Fakhreddin Torabi and Yi Lu, "Functional DNA Nanomaterials for Sensing and Imaging in Living Cells, Curr. Opin. Biotech. 28, 88-95 (2014).

Ole Farver, Nicholas M. Marshall, Scot Wherland, Yi Lu, Israel Pecht, "Designed Azurins Show Lower Reorganization Free Energies for Intra-protein Electron Transfer," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 10536–10540 (2013).

Peiwen Wu, Kevin Hwang, Tian Lan, Yi Lu, "A DNAzyme-Gold Nanoparticle Probe for Uranyl Ion in Living Cells", J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 5254–5257 (2013).

Zidong Wang, Longhua Tang, Li Huey Tan, Jinghong Li, and Yi Lu, "Discovery of DNA "Genetic Codes" for Abiological Gold Nanostructural Morphologies," Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 51, 9078-9082 (2012).

Kyle D. Miner, Arnab Mukherjee, Yi Gui Gao, Eric L. Null, Igor D. Petrik, Xuan Zhao, Natasha Yeung, Howard Robinson, and Yi Lu, "A Designed Functional Metalloenzyme that Reduces O2 to H2O with Over One Thousand Turnovers," Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 51, 5589-5592 (2012).

Yu Xiang and Yi Lu, "Using personal glucose meters and functional DNA sensors to quantify a variety of analytical targets," Nature Chemistry 3, 697-703 (2011).

Hui Wei, Zidong Wang, Jiong Zhang, Stephen House, Yi-Gui Gao, Limin Yang, Howard Robinson, Li Huey Tan, Hang Xing, Changjun Hou, Ian M. Robertson, Jian-Min Zuo and Yi Lu, "Time-dependent, protein-directed growth of gold nanoparticles within a single crystal of lysozyme," Nature Nanotech. 6, 93-97 (2011).

Ying-Wu Lin, Natasha Yeung, Yi-Gui Gao, Kyle D. Miner, Shiliang Tian, Howard Robinson, and Yi Lu, "Roles of glutamates and metal ions in a rationally designed nitric oxide reductase based on myoglobin," Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 8581-8586 (2010).

Natasha Yeung, Ying-Wu Lin, Yi-Gui Gao, Xuan Zhao, Brandy S. Russell, Lanyu Lei, Kyle D. Miner, Howard Robinson, and Yi Lu, "Rational Design of a Structural and Functional Nitric Oxide Reductase," Nature 462, 1079-1082 (2009).

Nicholas M. Marshall, Dewain K. Garner, Tiffany D. Wilson, Yi-Gui Gao, Howard Robinson, Mark J. Nilges, and Yi Lu, "Rationally tuning the reduction potential of a single cupredoxin beyond the natural range," Nature 462, 113-116 (2009).

Yi Lu, Natasha Yeung, Nathan Sieracki and Nicholas M. Marshall, "Design of functional metalloproteins", Nature 460, 855-862 (2009).


  • 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