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 develops and applies single-molecule techniques to important fundamental questions in biology and disease, with a special focus on mechanisms of viral infection and recognition by the immune system. For example, understanding molecular features of viral particles that are important for viral infection and immune system activation can enlighten therapeutic strategies to block virion infection, as well as improve vaccine and gene delivery using viruses as vectors. Addressing such questions is often limited by our understanding of these processes at molecular and cellular levels, which is one of many reasons the Cheng lab studies and dissects these processes, aided by novel biophysical techniques developed by the lab.

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


  • 2012 3M Nontenured Faculty Award
  • 2013 George Fishman Memorial Fund

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.