Dr. Fei SUN

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR, China


Peking University                                                                              Beijing, China

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry                                                                               2007

The University of Chicago                                                               Chicago, IL, USA

Ph.D. in Chemistry (Advisor: Chuan He)                                                                   2012


The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology                            Hong Kong, China

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Biological Engineering                           2014-present

California Institute of Technology                                                              Pasadena, CA, USA

Postdoctoral Researcher (Advisor: Frances H. Arnold)                                                  2012-2014

Honors and Affiliations

  • 2019 Royal Society of Chemistry Molecular Systems Design & Engineering 2020 Emerging Investigator
  • 2019  The Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) Scholars Award
  • 2018 Founding Member of the Professional Committee of Synthetic Biology, the Chinese Society of Biotechnology
  • 2016 The project titled “Microalgae for Uranium Mining from the Ocean (MUM)” was selected as one of the 10 top moonshot projects for the Google X Science Fair in California
  • 2011 Chicago Biomedical Consortium Scholar Award
  • 2010 The Everett E Gilbert Memorial Prize in Organic Chemistry
  • 2010 International Conference On Gram-Positive Pathogens Travel Award
  • 2006 Tung OOCL Scholarship, Peking University
  • 2005 The President’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Peking University
  • 2005 Merit College Student Award, Beijing
  • 2005 Law’s Charitable Foundation Law Ting Pong Scholarship, Peking University
  • 2005 Merit Student Award, Peking University
  • 2004 First Prize in College Physics Competition, Beijing

Public Media Highlights

2020 “Synthetic Biology and Protein Materials”, Wen Wei Po.

2017 “HKUST develops new smart hydrogel opening doors for future material biology”, Xinhua News; TVB; Ming Pao News; RTHK; Yahoo News; Shanghai Daily; Design News; Science Daily; Asian Scientist Magazine; Phys.org; Drug Delivery Business News.

2013 “Made-To-Order Branched Proteins”, Research Highlights, C&EN; JACS Spotlights; F1000Prime.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Superscripts: 1, PhD and MPhil student; 2, post-doc; 3, HKUST collaborator; 4, non-HKUST collaborator; 5, PhD or postdoc advisor; #, co-first author; *, corresponding author.

After joining HKUST

  1. Yang, Z.,1 Yang, Y.,3 Wang, M.,3 Wang, T.,4 Fok, H.K.F.,1 Jiang, B.,1 Xiao, W.,1 Kou, S.,2 Guo, Y.,3 Yan, Y.,3 Deng, X.,4 Zhang, W.-B.4 and Sun, F.* (2020). Dynamically Tunable, Macroscopic Molecular Networks Enabled by Cellular Synthesis of 4-Arm Star-like Proteins. Matter 2, 233-249. DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2019.09.013.
  2. Cao, Y.,1 Wei, X.,4 Lin, Y.4 and Sun, F.* (2020). Synthesis of Bio-Inspired Viscoelastic Molecular Networks by Metal-Induced Protein Assembly. Molecular Systems Design & Engineering. DOI: 10.1039/C9ME00027E. (Invited for MSDE Emerging Investigators 2020 Special Issue).
  3. Kou, S.,2 Yang, X.,3 Yang, Z.,1 Liu, X.,1 Wegner, S.V.4 and Sun, F.* (2019). Cobalt-Cross-Linked, Redox-Responsive Spy Network Protein Hydrogels. ACS Macro Lett. 8, 773-778.
  4. Park, B.M.,1 Luo, J.1 and Sun, F.* (2019). Enzymatic Assembly of Adhesive Molecular Networks with Sequence-Dependent Mechanical Properties Inspired by Mussel Foot Proteins. Polym. Chem. 10, 823-826.
  5. Wu, X.-L.,4 Liu, Y.,4 Liu, D.,4 Sun, F. and Zhang, W.-B.*4 (2018). An Intrinsically Disordered Peptide-Peptide Stapler for Highly Efficient Protein Ligation Both in Vivo and in Vitro. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 140         (50), 17474-17483.
  6. Yang, Z.,#1 Kou, S.,#2 Wei, X.,4 Zhang, F.,4 Li, F.,3 Wang, X.-W.,4 Lin, Y.,4 Wan, C.,*4 Zhang, W.-B.* and Sun, F.* (2018). Genetically Programming Stress-Relaxation Behavior in Entirely Protein-Based Molecular Networks. ACS Macro Lett. 7, 1468-1474.
  7. Liu, X.,1 Yang, X.,3 Yang, Z.,1 Luo, J.,1 Tian, X.,3 Liu, K.,3 Kou, S.2 and Sun, F.* (2018). Versatile Engineered Protein Hydrogels Enabling Decoupled Mechanical and Biochemical Tuning for Cell Adhesion and Neurite Growth. ACS Appl. Nano Mater. 1, 1579-1585.
  8. Luo, J.,1 Liu, X.,1 Yang, Z.1 and Sun, F.* (2018). Synthesis of Entirely Protein-Based Hydrogels by Enzymatic Oxidation Enabling Water-Resistant Bioadhesion and Stem Cell Encapsulation. ACS Appl. Bio Mater. 1, 1735-1740.
  9. Tyagi, A.,3 Liu, X.,1 Abidi, I.H.,3 Gao, Z.,3 Park, B.M.,1 Zeng, X.,3 Ou, X.,3 Cagang, A.A.,3 Zhuang, M.,3 Hossain, M.D.,3 Sun, F.* and Luo, Z.*3 (2018). Modular functionalization of crystalline graphene by recombinant proteins: a nanoplatform for probing biomolecules.        Nanoscale 10, 22572-22582.
  10. Zhang, X.-J.,4 Wang, X.-W.,4 Da, X.-D.,4 Shi, Y.-L.,4 Liu, C.,4 Sun, F., Yang, S.4 and Zhang, W.-B.*4 (2018). A Versatile and Robust Approach to Stimuli-Responsive Protein Multilayers with Biologically Enabled Unique Functions. Biomacromolecules 19 (3), 1065-1073.
  11. Wei, J.,4 Wu, W.,4 Wang, R.,1 Yang, Z.,1 Sun, F.* and Zhang, W.B.*4 (2018). B12-Dependent Protein Oligomerization Facilitates Layer-by-Layer Growth of Photo/Thermal Responsive Nanofilms. ACS Macro Lett. 7 (5), 514-518.
  12. Sun, F.* and Zhang, W.B.*4 (2017). Unleashing Chemical Power from Protein Sequence Space toward Genetically Encoded Click Chemistry. Chi. Chem. Lett. 28 (11), 2078-2084.
  13. Wang, R.,#1 Yang, Z.,#1 Luo, J.,1 Hsing, I.M.3 and Sun, F.* (2017). B12-Dependent photo-responsive protein hydrogels for controlled stem cell/protein release. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 114, 5912-5917. (Hong Kong Institute of Engineers Best Materials Paper in 2017).
  14. Kou, S.,2 Yang, Z.1 and Sun, F.* (2017). Protein Hydrogel Microbeads for Selective Uranium Mining from Seawater. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 9 (3), 2035-2039.
  15. Kou, S.,2 Yang, Z.,1 Luo, J.1 and Sun, F.* (2017) “Entirely Recombinant Protein-Based Hydrogels for Selective Heavy Metal Sequestration “, Polym. Chem. 8, 6158-6164.
  16. Kou, S.,2 Cheng, D.,3 Sun, F.* and Hsing, I.M.*3 (2016). Microfluidics and Microbial Engineering. Lab on a Chip 16 (3), 432-446. (Lab on a Chip Most Accessed Articles in 2016).
  17. Bedbrook, C.N.,4 Kato, M.,4 Kumar, S.R.,4 Lakshmanan, A.,4 Nath, R.D.,4 Sun, F., Sternberg, P.W.,4 Arnold, F.H.5 and Gradinaru, V.*4 (2015). Genetically Encoded Spy Peptide Fusion System to Detect Plasma Membrane-Localized Proteins In Vivo. Chem. Biol. 22, 1108-1121.
  18. Sun, F.,# Zhang, W.B.,#4 Mahdavi, A.,4 Arnold, F.H.*5 and Tirrell, D.A.*4 (2014). Synthesis of bioactive protein hydrogels by genetically encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher chemistry. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 11269-11274.

Before HKUST

  1. Deng, X., Liang, H., Ulanovskaya, O., Ji, Q., Zhou, T., Sun, F., Lu, Z., Hutchison, A., Lan, L., Wu, M., Cravatt, B.F., He, C.*5 (2014). Steady-state hydrogen peroxide induces glycolysis via metabolic reroute in pathogenic bacteria. J. Bacteriol. 196, 2499-2513.
  2. Zhang, W.B.,#4 Sun, F.,# Tirrell, D.A.*4 and Arnold, F.H.*5 (2013). Controlling Macromolecular Topology with Genetically Encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher Chemistry. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 13988-13997. (Highlighted by C&EN, F1000Prime, Spotslights on JACS).
  3. Ji, Q., Zhang, L., Jones, M.B., Sun, F., Deng, X., Liang, H., Cho, H., Brugarolas, P., Gao, Y.N., Peterson, S.N., Lan, L., Bae, T. and He, C.*5 (2013). Molecular mechanism of quinone signaling mediated through S-quinonization of a YodB family repressor QsrR. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 5010-5015.
  4. Sun, F., Ding, Y., Ji, Q., Liang, Z., Deng, X., Wong, C.C., Yi, C., Zhang, L., Xie, S., Alvarez, S., Hicks, L.M., Luo, C., Jiang, H., Lan, L.* and He, C.*5 (2012). Protein cysteine phosphorylation of SarA/MgrA family transcriptional regulators mediates bacterial virulence and antibiotic resistance. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109, 15461-15466.
  5. Deng, X., Weerapana, E., Ulanovskaya, O., Sun, F., Liang, H., Ji, Q., Ye, Y., Fu, Y., Zhou, L., Li, J., Zhang, H., Wang, C., Alvarez, S., Hicks, L., Lan, L., Wu, M., Cravatt, B.F.* and He, C.*5 (2012). Proteome-wide Quantification and Characterization of Oxidation-Sensitive Cysteines in Pathogenic Bacteria. Cell Host & Microbe 13, 358-370.
  6. Sun, F.,# Liang, H.,# Kong, X., Xie, S., Cho, H., Deng, X., Ji, Q., Zhang, H., Alvarez, S., Hicks, L.M., Bae, T., Luo, C., Jiang, H. and He, C.*5 (2012). Quorum-sensing agr mediates bacterial oxidation response via an intramolecular disulfide redox switch in the response regulator AgrA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109, 9095-9100.
  7. Ji, Q., Zhang, L., Sun, F., Deng, X., Liang, H., Bae, T., and He, C.*5 (2012). Staphylococcus aureus CymR Is a New Thiol-based Oxidation-sensing Regulator of Stress Resistance and Oxidative Response. J. Biol. Chem. 287, 21102-21109.
  8. Liang, H., Deng, X., Ji, Q., Sun, F., Shen, T. and He, C.*5 (2012). The Pseudomonas aeruginosa Global Regulator VqsR Directly Inhibits QscR to Control Quorum-Sensing and Virulence Gene Expression, J. Bacteriol. 194(12), 3098-3108.
  9. Deng, X., Sun, F., Ji, Q., Liang, H., Missiakas, D., Lan, L., and He, C.*5 (2012). The multidrug resistance efflux pump gene norA is negatively regulated by iron uptake in Staphylococcus aureus. J. Bacteriol. 194, 1753-1762.
  10. Sun, F.,# Ji, Q.,# Jones, M., Deng, X., Liang, H., Frank, B., Telser, J., Peterson, S., Bae, T.* and He, C.*5 (2012). AirSR, a [2Fe-2S] cluster-containing two-component system, mediates global oxygen sensing and redox signaling in Staphylococcus aureus. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 134, 305-314.
  11. Jeong, D.W., Cho, H., Jones, M.B., Shatzkes, K., Sun, F., Ji, Q., Liu, Q., Peterson, S.N., He, C.,5 and Bae, T.* (2012). The auxiliary protein complex SaePQ activates the phosphatase activity of sensor kinase SaeS in the SaeRS two-component system of Staphylococcus aureus. Mol. Microbiol. 86, 331-348.
  12. Wegner, S.V., Sun, F., Hernandez, N., and He, C.*5 (2011). The tightly regulated copper window in yeast. Chem. Commun. (Camb) 47, 2571-2573.
  13. Sun, F., Zhou, L., Deng, X., Yi, C., Jian, X., Song, C., Luan, C., Bae, T., Li, Z.* and He, C.*5 (2011). Targeting MgrA-Mediated Virulence Regulation in Staphylococcus aureus. Chem. Biol. 18, 1032-1041.
  14. Li, C.,# Sun, F.,# Cho, H., Yelavarthi, V., Sohn, C., He, C.,5 Schneewind, O., and Bae, T.* (2010). CcpA mediates proline auxotrophy and is required for Staphylococcus aureus pathogenesis.  J. Bacteriol. 192, 3883-3892.
  15. Sun, F.,# Cho, H.,# Jeong, D.W.,# Li, C., He, C.*5 and Bae, T.* (2010). Aureusimines in Staphylococcus aureus are not involved in virulence. PLoS One 5, e15703.
  16. Sun, F., Li, C., Jeong, D., Sohn, C., He, C.*5 and Bae, T.* (2010). In the Staphylococcus aureus two-component system sae, the response regulator SaeR binds to a direct repeat sequence and DNA binding requires phosphorylation by the sensor kinase SaeS. J. Bacteriol. 192, 2111-2127.

Book Chapter

Wang, R.1 and Sun, F.* (2020). Photoresponsive hydrogels. Photochemistry (Royal Society of Chemistry), 47, 379-403.


  1. US Patent: PHOTORESPONSIVE PROTEIN HYDROGELS AND METHODS AND USES THEREOF. Serial No. 15/974,927 filed on 09 May, 2018. Sun, F., Wang, R. Pending.

Professional Service

  • Professional Affiliations
    • Member of American Chemistry Society (ACS)
    • Member of American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
    • Member of Chinese Chemical Society (CCS)
    • Founding Member of the Professional Committee of Synthetic Biology, the Chinese Society of Biotechnology
    • Founding Member of the Professional Committee of Synthetic Biology, China Medicinal Biotech Association
  • Grant Review
    • Hong Kong Research Grant Council, Faculty Development Scheme (2018)
  • Workshops, Meetings and Conferences
  • April 20-24 2015. IAS Focused Program on Biomaterials for Medical Applications. (Co-Organizer).
  • September 18-20 2015. The 9th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering, Shanghai. (Session Chair).
  • February 18-19 2017. Discussion Forum between Engineering Schools of Peking University and HKUST. (Co-Organizer).
  • December 6-9 2018. Croucher-HKUST IAS Joint Workshop on Synthetic Biology and Living Functional Soft Matter. (Chair and Organizer).
  • May 19-24 2020, Glasgow, Scotland. The 11th World Biomaterials Congress WBC2020; Special Symposium: Synthetic Biology and Biomaterials (Co-Chair and Organizer).
  • Journal Services
    • 2019 Guest editor for the Special Issue of Frontiers in Chemistry on Synthesis of Novel Hydrogels with Unique Mechanical Properties.
    • Reviewer for many internationally renowned journals such as Journal of the American Chemical Society; Nature Communications; Angewandte Chemie; ACS Nano; Advanced Materials; Advanced Science; Science Advances; ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces; Advanced Functional Materials; Macromolecules; AIChE Journal; Advanced Biosystems; ACS Synthetic Biology; PLOS ONE; Journal of Visualized Experiments; Infection and Immunity; Lab on a Chip; The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering; Acta Chimica Sinica.
  • Invited Lectures and Seminars

In the past 5 years, Prof. Fei Sun have been invited to give > 45 research talks, including those in prestigious research institutes such as Univ. of Oxford, Peking Univ., Tsinghua Univ., Univ. of Edinburgh, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research and Google X.