Xin Zhang

Xin Zhang

Main Content

  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Paul Berg Early Career Professorship in the Eberly College of Science
224 Chemistry Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-3732

Mailing Address:
104 Chemistry Building


  1. Ph.D. Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 2010
  2. M.S. Chemistry, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2004
  3. B.S. Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China, 2001

Honors and Awards:

  1. Sloan Research Fellow, 2018
  2. The Lloyd and Dottie Huck Early Career Award, 2015-16
  3. The Burrough Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, 2014-19
  4. American Chemical Society National Award – Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry, 2012
  5. The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship Award, 2011 (declined)
  6. The Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship Award, 2011-14 (selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow)
  7. Springer Thesis Award, 2010
  8. Herbert Newby McCoy Award of Caltech, 2010
  9. Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad, 2009
  10. The Ulric B. and Evelyn L. Bray Endowment Fellowship, 2006-08
  11. Distinguished Thesis Award in Liaoning Province, China, 2005
  12. The Liu Yonglin Award, 2000

Selected Publications:

Independent Work at Penn State

7. “Modulation of fluorescent protein chromophores to detect protein aggregation with turn-on fluorescence”, submitted.

6. Y. Liu, M. Fares, Zhang*, “Monitoring proteome stress in live cells using HaloTag-based fluorogenic sensor”, Methods in Molecular Biology, invited book chapter.

5. Y. Liu, K. Miao, Y. Li, M. Fares, S. Chen, X. Zhang* “A HaloTag-based multi-color fluorogenic sensor visualizes and quantifies proteome stress in live cells using solvatochromic and molecular rotor-based fluorophores“, Biochemistry, accepted.

4. Y. Liu and X. Zhang*, “Heat shock protein reports on proteome stress”, Biotechnology J, accepted.

3. M. Fares, Y. Li, Y. Liu, K. Miao, Z. Gao, Y. Zhai, X. Zhang*, “A molecular rotor-based Halo-tag ligand enables a fluorogenic proteome stress sensor to detect protein misfolding in mildly stressed proteome“, Bioconjutate Chem, 29 (2018), 215-224.

2. Y. Liu, M. Fares, N. P. Dunham, Z. Gao, K. Miao, X. Jiang, S. S. Bollinger, A. K. Boal, X. Zhang*, “AgHalo: A facile fluorogenic sensor to detect drug induced proteome stress“, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 56 (2017), 8672-8676.

1. Y. Liu, K. Miao, N.P. Dunham, H. Liu, M. Fares, X. Li, A.B. Boal, X. Zhang*, “The cation-π interaction enables a Halo-Tag fluorogenic probe for fast no-wash live cell imaging and gel-free protein quantification“, Biochemistry, 56 (2017), 1585-1595, (ACS Editor’s Choice). Featured by Viewpoint in Biochemistry. 

Prior to Penn State

1.     Y. Liu*, X. Zhang*, W.T. Chen, Y.L. Tan, J.W. Kelly, “Fluorescence turn-on folding sensor to monitor proteome stress in live cells”, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 137 (2015), 11303-11321, (*co-first authors).

2.     Y.H. Cho*, X. Zhang*, Y. Liu, K. Fayer, D.L. Powers, J.W. Kelly, L. Gierasch. E.T. Powers, “Individual and collective contributions of chaperonin and degradation to protein homeostasis in E. coli”, Cell Reports, 11 (2015), 321-33, (*co-first authors).

3.     Y. Liu*, Y.L. Tan*, X. Zhang*#, G. Bhabha, D. Ekiert, J.C. Genereux, Y.H. Cho, Y. Kipnis, D. Baker, J.W. Kelly#, “Small molecule probes to quantify the functional fraction of a specific protein in a cell with minimal folding equilibrium shifts”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA), 111 (2014), 4449-54, (*co-first authors listed alphabetically; #co-corresponding authors).

4.     X. Zhang, Y. Liu, J.C. Genereux, C. Nolan, M. Singh, J.W. Kelly, “The heat-shock response transcriptional program enables high-yield and high-quality recombinant protein production in Escherichia coli”, ACS Chem. Biol., 9 (2014), 1945-1949. (ACS Editor's Choice)

5.     Y. Liu*, X. Zhang*, Y.L. Tan, G. Bhabha, D. Ekiert, D. Baker, J.W. Kelly, “De novo designed enzymes as small molecule-regulated fluorescence imaging tags and fluorescent reporters”, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 136 (2014), 13102-13105, (*co-first authors). (ACS AuthorChoice)

6.     X. Zhang and J.W. Kelly, “Chaperonins resculpt folding free energy landscapes to avoid kinetic traps and accelerate protein folding” J. Mol. Biol., 426 (2014), 2736-8.

7.     X. Zhang and S. Shan, “Fidelity of co-translational protein targeting by the signal recognition particle”, Ann. Rev. Biophysics43 (2014), 381-408.

8.     D. Akopian*, K. Shen*, X. Zhang*, S. Shan, “Signal recognition particle: An essential targeting machine”, Ann. Rev. Biochemistry82 (2013), 693-722 (*co-first authors listed alphabetically).

9.     X. Zhang, V.Q. Lam, Y. Mou, T. Kimura, J. Chung, S. Chandrasekar, J.R. Winkler, S.L. Mayo, S. Shan, “Direct visualization reveals dynamics of a transient intermediate during protein assembly”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA),108(2011), 6450-55.

10.  X. Zhang, R. Rashid, K. Wang, and S. Shan, “Sequential checkpoints govern substrate selection during co-translational protein targeting”, Science, 328 (2010), 757-60.

11.  X. Zhang, C. Schaffitzel, N. Ban, and S. Shan, “Multiple conformational switches in a GTPase complex control co-translational protein targeting”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA), 106 (2009), 1754-59.

12.  X. Zhang, S. Kung and S. Shan, “Demonstration of a multistep mechanism for assembly of the SRP•SRP receptor complex: Implications for the catalytic role of SRP RNA”, J. Mol. Biol., 381 (2008), 581-93.



Research Interests:


Biochemistry of intracellular protein aggregation in stressed proteome and neurodenegeration


Design and synthesis of small molecules to image and modulate intracellular protein aggregates

Chemical Biology

Chemical biology of intracellular protein aggregation in stressed proteome and neurodenegeration