After earning a BS in biology from the University of Science and Technology of China, Wei Cheng completed his PhD in molecular biophysics at Washington University, in St. Louis, Mo., and did postdoctoral training at UC-Berkeley. In 2009, he accepted an endowed assistant professor position with the University of Michigan. 

Professor Cheng’s lab focuses on the fundamental questions relevant to the design of vaccines.  Vaccination has made a major impact on global population health; it has controlled more than a dozen of human diseases.  However, the time currently needed for the launch of new global health vaccines is too long and the failure rate during the late stage of development is unsustainably high.  As a consequence, substantial time and investment usually went into the development of a vaccine yet the result is often uncertain. Even though the vaccines are available, in many cases, the molecular basis that underlines their immunogenicity is not clear.  Prof. Cheng's lab has developed innovative techniques for understanding molecular features of viral particles that are important for infection and immune system activation, and he is interested in identifying the molecular basis of immunogenicity and applying this knowledge to the formulation of a vaccine.

Research Interests

  • Exploring fundamental questions that can enlighten therapeutic strategies

  • Developing and applying state-of-the-art single-particle and single-molecule manipulation and visualization techniques for detection and discovery


  • 2017 Upjohn research award, COP
  • 2013 George Fishman Memorial Fund, College of Pharmacy
  • 2012 3M Nontenured Faculty Award, 3M

Selected Publications

  • Y. Pang, H. Song, J. H. Kim, X. Hou, and W. Cheng. (2014). Optical Trapping of Individual Human Immunodeficiency Viruses in Culture Fluid Reveals Heterogeneity with Single-Molecule Resolution. Nature Nanotechnology 9: 624-630.

  • B. Koh, G. Kim, H. Yoon, J. B. Park, R. Kopelman, and W. Cheng. (2012). Fluorophore and Dye-Assisted Dispersion of Carbon Nanotubes in Aqueous Solution. Langmuir 28: 11676-11686.

  • W. Cheng, S. G. Arunajadai, J. R. Moffitt, I. Tinoco Jr., and C. Bustamante. (2011). Single Base Pair Unwinding and Asynchronous RNA Release by the HCV NS3 Helicase. Science 333: 1746-1749.

  • X. Hou and W. Cheng. (2011). Single-Molecule Detection Using Continuous-Wave Excitation of Two-Photon Fluorescence. Opt. Lett. 36: 3185-3187. (Also selected for publication in the Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics)

  • X. Hou and W. Cheng. (2012). Optical Tweezers. In: Roberts GC. Encyclopedia of Biophysics. Heidelberg, Springer.