Zhao Qin

Assistant Professor

Civil & Environmental Engineering


  • Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2013, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • M.Eng., Engineering Mechanics, 2008, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
  • B.Eng., Engineering Mechanics, 2006, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Research interests:

  • Development of advanced computational modeling methods for designing new materials of advanced material functions.
  • Bottom-up modeling of the multi-scale structure-mechanics relationship of nano- and bio-materials. Fundamental understanding of the material behaviors of biological and synthetic polymeric materials from the most molecular scale to macroscopic length scale.
  • Learn from nature and discover bio-inspired ideas to create and design materials with innovative material functions.
  • Prototyping, optimization and characterization of synthetic composite materials with multiple advanced material functions, for efficient usage of engineering materials.

Current Research:

My research focuses on developing advanced computational modeling methods, using them to study fundamental mechanical properties of biological materials and applying the knowledge to design new materials of advanced mechanical functions. I have a broad background in mechanics and structure of materials, with specific training and expertise in the multi-scale structure-mechanics relationship in biological materials. My research focuses on the structure and mechanics insight of general natural materials as many of them, such as mussel glue, insect wings and membranes, have fascinating mechanical and biological properties built up from simple basic molecular building blocks. I am thus strongly motivated to develop tools that enable us to learn from nature to make material innovations more efficient. I have developed a multi-scale high-throughput computational modeling method that enables me to study materials from the most fundamental molecular scale to macroscopic length scale. I have applied the tool to the investigations of several different biological materials and have revealed new mechanisms hidden in their complex structures. Some of the findings contribute to fundamental understandings of diseases that take place from the molecular scale; others contribute to designs and prototyping of synthetic composite materials with multiple advanced material functions. I have developed principles to help to optimize the material functions through structures, making it feasible to rationally design the mechanics and longevity of composite materials, leading to better performance with less energetic and environmental cost than conventional engineering materials for industrial applications.

Teaching Interests:

  • Multiscale Material Modeling and Simulations
  • Engineering Materials
  • Structures and Materials
  • Mechanics of Solids


  • Best paper award in Journal of Applied Mechanics (ASME) for the paper “Bioinspired Graphene Nanogut” among papers published during 2012~2013
  • Outstanding Paper Award, ASME Global Congress on Nano Engineering for Medicine and Biology, Boston, MA, 2013
  • Chinese Government Award For Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad, 2011, NY, 2011
  • Best Paper Award, International Journal of Applied Mechanics (Imperial College Press) 2010
  • Schoettler Graduate Fellowship, Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT, 2010
  • SAMSUNG Scholarship, Tsinghua University, China, 2007
  • 2nd Rank National Scholarship, Tsinghua University, China, 2003

Recent Publications:

  1. J. Wu, Z. Qin, Liangliang Qu, Hao Zhang, Fei Deng, Ming Guo (2019), Natural hydrogel in American lobster: a soft armour with high toughness and strength, Acta Biomaterialia, Vol 88, pp. 102-110
  2. Z. Qin, M. J. Buehler (2019), Analysis of the vibrational and sound spectrum of over 100,000 protein structures and application in sonification, Extreme Mechanics Letters, Vol 29, 100460
  3. Z. Qin, M. Buehler (2018), Hierarchical nanostructures for functional materials (editorial), Nanotechnology, Vol. 29, paper #: 280201
  4. I. Su, Z. Qin, T. Saraceno, A. Krell, R. Muhlethaler, A. Bisshop and M. J. Buehler (2018), Imaging and analysis of a three-dimensional spider web architecture, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2018.0193
  5. Y. Han, M. Li, G. Jung, M. A. Marsalis, Z. Qin, M. J. Buehler, L. Li, D. A. Muller (2018), Sub-Nanometer Channels Embedded in Two-Dimensional Materials, Nature Materials, Vol. 17, pp 129-133
  6. E. Gao, S. Lin, Z. Qin, M. J Buehler, X. Feng, Z. Xu (2018), Mechanical exfoliation of two-dimensional materials, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Vol. 115, pp. 248-262
  7. Z. Qin, G. Jung, M. J. Kang, M. J. Buehler (2017), The mechanics and design of light-weight three-dimensional graphene assembly, Science Advances, Vol. 3, paper #: e1601536
  8. S. Ling, Z. Qin, W. Huang, S. Chao, D. L. Kaplan, M. J. Buehler (2017), Biomimetic multilayer water purification membranes, Science Advances, Vol. 3, paper #: e1601939
  9. S. Ling, Z. Qin, C. Li, W. Huang, D. L. Kaplan, M. J. Buehler (2017), Polymorphic, hierarchical, regenerated silk fibers assembled through bioinspired spinning, Nature Communications, Vol. 8, paper #: 1387
  10. Y. Wang, Z. Qin, Markus J. Buehler, Zhiping Xu (2016), Intercalated Water Layers Promote Thermal Dissipation at Bio-Nano Interfaces, Nature Communications, Vol 7, paper #: 12854
  11. S. Wang, Z. Qin, G. Jung, Francisco J. Martin-Martinez, K. Zhang, M. J. Buehler, J. H. Warner (2016), Atomically Sharp Crack Tip Propagation in Monolayer MoS2, ACS Nano, Vol 10, pp. 9831–9839
  12. Z. Qin, B. Compton, J. A. Lewis and M. J. Buehler (2015), Structural optimization of 3D-printed synthetic spider webs for high strength, Nature Communications, Vol 6, paper #: 7038
  13. Zhao Qin (Corresponding author) and Markus J. Buehler (2015), Nonlinear Viscous Water at Nanoporous Two-Dimensional Interfaces Resists High-Speed Flow-through Cooperativity, Nano Letters, Vol 15, pp 3939–3944
  14. Zhao Qin, Michael Taylor, Mary Hwang, Katia Bertoldi and Markus J. Buehler (2014), Effect of wrinkles on the surface area of graphene: toward the design of nanoelectronics, Nano Letters, Vol 14, pp. 6520–6525
  15. Z. Qin, and Markus J. Buehler (2014), Molecular mechanics of mussel adhesion proteins, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Vol 62, pp. 19-30