SyracuseCoE recently hosted an Research & Technology Forum featuring Dr. Zhao Qin, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University, who spoke about his team’s research on innovative, bio-inspired materials.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals outline 17 interconnected challenges that represent areas where urgent action is required to safeguard the well-being of all people and the planet. Biology is at the heart of many of these goals – from sustainable manufacturing and agriculture to energy, biomedical sciences, pollution treatment and climate change strategy. Technology of natural materials, including revealing the hidden gene-structure-function relationship and innovative direct application, is crucial to accelerate the transition from a petroleum-based conventional development to a sustainable and circular development.

Dr. Qin’s Laboratory for Multiscale Material Modeling focuses on experimental characterization of the microstructures of these biomaterials, building multiscale physical models to reveal the structure-function relationship and carry out bioinspired design and optimization with generative AI.

In this R&T forum, Dr. Qin used examples (e.g., bone, bamboo, mycelium) to introduce recent bioinspired composites studies for strong, tough material with thermal insulation. His research has identified that instead of overall chemistry and molecular ratio, mesoscopic features, including material distribution and interfacial interaction, significantly affect the strength and toughness of the composites. Dr. Qin’s team is applying these research findings and techniques to explore large-scale applications in building, agriculture, and energy.

Watch a recording of the forum below.


Zhao Qin, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS)

Dr. Zhao Qin graduated from Tsinghua University with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in 2006 and 2008, respectively. He received his Ph.D. from MIT in 2013 and continued his work as a research scientist until starting work at his Syracuse lab in 2019. Dr. Qin is working toward combining experiments and multiscale computational tools for functional biocomposite designs through natural processes. His work focuses on the structure-function relationship of nano and biological materials of hierarchical structures, and he has published over 120 papers with an h-index of 47. He received a 2022 CAREER award from the US National Science Foundation (NSF).