Biologically Inspired Chemistry & Physics
Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (2011-2016)
Dr. Hai received his B.S. in Chemistry from Peking University in 2011. He then pursued a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (2011-2016) under the guidance of Prof. David W. Christianson. At UPenn, he focused on studying the structure and function relationship of metallohydrolases primarily using protein X-ray crystallography; and developed a keen interest in enzyme mechanism, catalysis and inhibition. He then pursued postdoctoral studies (2016-2020) in the group of Prof. Yi Tang at UCLA to study fungal natural product biosynthesis, where he discovered new enzymes and metabolic pathways through genome mining. In 2018, Dr. Hai spent a summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole to study microbiology, where he was intrigued by the microbial diversity in nature.
In this postgenomic era, the exponentially growing number of protein and DNA sequences provides tremendous opportunities to discover novel enzymes carrying out unusual biochemical transformations; metabolites/natural products with new biological activities, and previously unknown metabolic/biological pathways. The Hai research group will (1) integrate both chemical and biological approaches to uncover new enzyme functions and expand the toolboxes of enzymes in biocatalysis; (2) focus on the structure-function relationship of emerging enzymes implicated in human diseases and agriculture. In addition to our expertise in biochemistry, we will also collaborate with materials scientists and engineers on campus to develop biocatalytic and synthetic biological approaches for synthesizing new biopolymers and other biomaterials.