High-flying Zibo Chen awarded for engineered proteins

Zibo Chen, Category winner. Category: Cell and Molecular Biology.

Flight enthusiast Zibo Chen (California Institute of Technology) is awarded the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for his designed proteins, but is nowhere close to stopping there – the goal is to customize every single component of life.

Engineering cells to perform tasks can be used in biotechnology and medicine, by for example engineering bacteria to clean up toxic waste. Zibo Chen, PhD at the University of Washington and currently a Postdoc at the California Institute of Technology, has designed different kinds of proteins that could potentially be used to create synthetic signaling pathways or programmable self-assembly of proteins. An endeavour for which he has won the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists, in the category of Cell and Molecular Biology. He sees long term benefits with this research and would in the future like to have his own lab to study this further.

“I would really like to dig into the details of protein-protein interaction specificity, and my hope is to eventually be able to design life from the bottom up and try to customize every single component of life for therapeutic applications” says Zibo Chen.

A lifelong desire

Growing up wanting to be an astronaut, Zibo Chen always dreamt of flying. Drones would keep his longing in check for a while, but a few years ago he decided that steering from the ground was not enough. When he arrived at Caltech to start his Postdoc position, he heard about a flying club at the university. He approached a flight instructor and started his training in a small Cessna airplane. Piloting an aircraft needed a whole new set of skills and he was happy to learn something new each time he got in a plane. Earlier this month, he performed his first solo flight.

“The view is astonishing from above and flying during sunset is just an amazing experience. The air is calm. The airport – and thereby the radio communication channel – is not too busy, which gives me a lot of personal time to reflect upon myself” says Zibo Chen.

More information:

Make sure not to miss the Science & SciLifeLab Prize Symposium: Roads to Research Excellence, where you will meet Zibo Chen and the other winners and learn more about their research. Register today!

Learn more about the winners and their research on

Tune in to our podcast featuring all four winners, sharing their current work and scientific journeys.


Last updated: 2019-11-22

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