Dr Sophia Gu
Senior Lecturer

Dr Sophia Gu

2007-2011, PhD in Biomedical Engineering, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland, Australia

2014, Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, The University of Queensland, Australia

School of Chemical Engineering

Dr Zi (Sophia) Gu is a Senior Lecturer, Principle Investigator, and Head of NanoBiotechnology Research Laboratory at School of Chemical Engineering of UNSW. After PhD training at The University of Queensland and Cornell University (US), she was engaged in a commercialisation project of drug-delivered nanotechnologies which led to 5 successful Clinical Trials. She was awarded a NHMRC Peter Doherty Biomedical Early Career Fellowship in 2014, prior to joining UNSW in 2016. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2019. Currently, she leads a NanoBiotechnology Research Group working on multidisciplinary research projects that combine the knowledge and skills across material chemistry, biomedical engineering and nanotechnology, and developed several nanoparticle platforms for disease diagnosis and treatment. She has published >60 research papers and filed a provisional patent. Most of these publications are in top tier journals in the fields of Material Science (Advanced Materials, Advanced Functional Materials, Materials Horizons), Nanotechnology (Advanced Science, Small, Small Methods), Chemistry (Chemistry of Materials), Biomaterials (Biomaterials), and Pharmaceutical Science (Journal of Controlled Release, Pharmaceutics). She has been awarded several grants and awards and has several academic leadership roles such as international conference chair, and an Associate Editor for Journal of Nanobiotechnology (Springer Nature).

Research Appointments
Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales, 2019-present
Lecturer (Tenure), University of New South Wales, 2018
Lecturer (Tenure Track), University of New South Wales, 2016-2018
NHMR EC Fellow, University of New South Wales, 2016-2019
NHMRC EC Fellow, University of Queensland, 2014-2016
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Queensland, 2011-2013
Research Fellow, Cornell University, US, 2010

Course Teaching
CEIC6712 Pharmaceutical Design and Engineering
GSOE9111 Energy Storage
CEIC Thesis A, B, C (project supervision)


+61 2 93854964
  • Journal articles | 2022
    Meng J; Zhang P; Chen Q; Wang Z; Gu Y; Ma J; Li W; Yang C; Qiao Y; Hou Y; Jing L; Wang Y; Gu Z; Zhu L; Xu H; Lu X; Gao M, 2022, 'Two-Pronged Intracellular Co-Delivery of Antigen and Adjuvant for Synergistic Cancer Immunotherapy', Advanced Materials, vol. 34, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adma.202202168
    Journal articles | 2022
    Yao C; Qi H; Jia X; Xu Y; Tong Z; Gu Z; Yang D, 2022, 'A DNA Nanocomplex Containing Cascade DNAzymes and Promoter-Like Zn-Mn-Ferrite for Combined Gene/Chemo-dynamic Therapy', Angewandte Chemie - International Edition, vol. 61, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.202113619
    Journal articles | 2021
    Wang X; Hu C; Gu Z; Dai L, 2021, 'Understanding of catalytic ROS generation from defect-rich graphene quantum-dots for therapeutic effects in tumor microenvironment', Journal of Nanobiotechnology, vol. 19, pp. 340, http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12951-021-01053-6
    Journal articles | 2020
    Guo Z; Liu J; Li Y; McDonald JA; Bin Zulkifli MY; Khan SJ; Xie L; Gu Z; Kong B; Liang K, 2020, 'Biocatalytic metal-organic framework nanomotors for active water decontamination', Chemical Communications, vol. 56, pp. 14837 - 14840, http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/d0cc06429g
    Journal articles | 2020
    Lv J; Dong Y; Gu Z; Yang D, 2020, 'Programmable DNA Nanoflowers for Biosensing, Bioimaging, and Therapeutics', Chemistry - A European Journal, vol. 26, pp. 14512 - 14524, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.202002242
    Journal articles | 2019
    Gao S; Hou J; Zeng J; Richardson JJ; Gu Z; Gao X; Li D; Gao M; Wang DW; Chen P; Chen V; Liang K; Zhao D; Kong B, 2019, 'Superassembled Biocatalytic Porous Framework Micromotors with Reversible and Sensitive pH-Speed Regulation at Ultralow Physiological H 2 O 2 Concentration', Advanced Functional Materials, vol. 29, pp. 1808900 - 1808900, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adfm.201808900
    Journal articles | 2019
    Guo Z; Wang T; Rawal A; Hou J; Cao Z; Zhang H; Xu J; Gu Z; Chen V; Liang K, 2019, 'Biocatalytic self-propelled submarine-like metal-organic framework microparticles with pH-triggered buoyancy control for directional vertical motion', Materials Today, vol. 28, pp. 10 - 16, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mattod.2019.04.022
    Journal articles | 2019
    Xie W; Guo Z; Cao Z; Gao Q; Wang D; Boyer C; Kavallaris M; Sun X; Wang X; Zhao L; Gu Z, 2019, 'Manganese-Based Magnetic Layered Double Hydroxide Nanoparticle: A pH-Sensitive and Concurrently Enhanced T1/ T2-Weighted Dual-Mode Magnetic Resonance Imaging Contrast Agent', ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, vol. 5, pp. 2555 - 2562, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsbiomaterials.8b01618
    Journal articles | 2018
    Cao Z; Zhang L; Liang K; Cheong S; Boyer C; Gooding JJ; Chen Y; Gu Z, 2018, 'Biodegradable 2D Fe–Al Hydroxide for Nanocatalytic Tumor-Dynamic Therapy with Tumor Specificity', Advanced Science, vol. 5, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/advs.201801155
    Journal articles | 2018
    Chua S; Fang R; Sun Z; Wu M; Gu Z; Wang Y; Hart JN; Sharma N; Li F; Wang DW, 2018, 'Hybrid Solid Polymer Electrolytes with Two-Dimensional Inorganic Nanofillers', Chemistry - A European Journal, vol. 24, pp. 18180 - 18203, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.201804781
    Journal articles | 2016
    Li L; Gu Z; Gu W; Liu J; Xu ZP, 2016, 'Efficient drug delivery using SiO2-layered double hydroxide nanocomposites', Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, vol. 470, pp. 47 - 55, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcis.2016.02.042
    Journal articles | 2016
    Li L; Gu Z; Gu WY; Xu ZP, 2016, 'Direct synthesis of layered double hydroxide nanosheets for efficient siRNA delivery', RSC Advances, vol. 6, pp. 95518 - 95526, http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c6ra19225d
    Journal articles | 2015
    Gu Z; Atherton JJ; Xu ZP, 2015, 'Hierarchical layered double hydroxide nanocomposites: Structure, synthesis and applications', Chemical Communications, vol. 51, pp. 3024 - 3036, http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c4cc07715f
    Journal articles | 2015
    Shi S; Fliss BC; Gu Z; Zhu Y; Hong H; Valdovinos HF; Hernandez R; Goel S; Luo H; Chen F; Barnhart TE; Nickles RJ; Xu ZP; Cai W, 2015, 'Chelator-Free Labeling of Layered Double Hydroxide Nanoparticles for in Vivo PET Imaging', Scientific Reports, vol. 5, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep16930
    Journal articles | 2015
    Zuo H; Gu Z; Cooper H; Xu ZP, 2015, 'Crosslinking to enhance colloidal stability and redispersity of layered double hydroxide nanoparticles', Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, vol. 459, pp. 10 - 16, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcis.2015.07.063
    Journal articles | 2014
    Gu Z; Wu A; Li L; Xu ZP, 2014, 'Influence of hydrothermal treatment on physicochemical properties and drug release of anti-inflammatory drugs of intercalated layered double hydroxide nanoparticles', Pharmaceutics, vol. 6, pp. 235 - 248, http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics6020235
    Journal articles | 2013
    Gu Z; Rolfe BE; Thomas AC; Xu ZP, 2013, 'Restenosis treatments using nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems', Current Pharmaceutical Design, vol. 19, pp. 6330 - 6339, http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/1381612811319350009
    Journal articles | 2013
    Yang D; Peng S; Hartman MR; Gupton-Campolongo T; Rice EJ; Chang AK; Gu Z; Lu GQ; Luo D, 2013, 'Enhanced transcription and translation in clay hydrogel and implications for early life evolution', Scientific Reports, vol. 3, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep03165

2020-2022, Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant

2019-2021, UNSW-CAS Joint Research Fund

2019-2022, Industrial Contract Research Fund

2016-2017, UNSW-Tsinghua Joint Research Fund

2017, Australian Centre for NanoMedicine Seed Research Fund

2014-2019, NHMRC EC Fellowship (Peter Doherty Biomedical EC Fellowship)

2014, Ian Potter Foundation Travel Award


2019, Academic & Professional Women in Leadership Program, UNSW

2018, Research Excellence Award, Australian Association of Chinese Biomedical Scientists

2018, Rising Star Award, Australian Association of Chinese Biomedical Scientists

2017, Monash Engineering Women's Leadership Award

2014-2018, NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (Peter Doherty Biomedical Early Career Fellowship)

2014, Ian Potter Foundation Travel Award

2013, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Award, The University of Queensland

2010, Graduate School International Travel Award, The University of Queensland

2008-2010, Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship

2008, Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Student Abroad, China Scholarship Council

2007, Best Student Poster Award at 4th ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials Annual Conference

Research Projects

Nanotechnology has emerged as a promising approach for precision diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening diseases. Towards the aim of developing safe and efficacious nanoparticle systems, my group utilises interdisciplinary approaches that bring together material chemistry, biomedical engineering and nanotechnology to synthesise functional nanoparticles, optimise their biomedical properties, and develope smart nanoparticles and advanced delivery strategies. There are three major interests of our research:

Research interest 1: Targeted, controlled and selective drug delivery system. Developing advanced drug delivery systems where nanoparticles are able to target the specific biological site, and function as both drug carriers and drug precursors, which not only transport the loaded drug molecules to the targeted biological site, but also ensure that the nanoparticles do not damage normal tissues until reaching the target, thereby minimizing the toxicity to normal tissues and maximizing the therapeutic efficacy.

Research interest 2: Bioimaging probe/contrast agent design. Developing smart nanoparticles to detect and monitor pathological processes in the disease environment.

Research interest 3: Multifunctional bioactive nanoparticles. Developing inorganic nanoparticles with multiple and state-of-the-art therapeutic and diagnostic modalities.


My Expertise

Drug delivery | Bio-imaging nanoprobe construction and application | Theranostic nanomedicine | Bio-nano interface | Nanozyme | Nanoparticles for cancer therapy, cardiovascular disease | Nanoparticle synthesis and modification | Two-dimensional nanomaterials



Ten Most Significant Career Publications

1. Cao Z; Zhang L; Liang K; Cheong S; Boyer C; Gooding JJ; Chen Y;* Gu Z,* 2018, 'Biodegradable 2D Fe–Al Hydroxide for Nanocatalytic Tumor-Dynamic Therapy with Tumor Specificity', Advanced Science, vol. 5, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/advs.201801155, (IF 15.804)

2. Li B; Gu Z;* Kurniawan N; Chen W; Xu ZP,* 2017, 'Manganese-Based Layered Double Hydroxide Nanoparticles as a T 1 -MRI Contrast Agent with Ultrasensitive pH Response and High Relaxivity', Advanced Materials, vol. 29, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adma.201700373, (IF 25.809)

3. Li B; Hao G; Sun B; Gu Z;* Xu ZP,* 2020, 'Engineering a Therapy-Induced “Immunogenic Cancer Cell Death” Amplifier to Boost Systemic Tumor Elimination', Advanced Functional Materials, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adfm.201909745 (IF 15.621)

4. Cao Z; Li B; Sun L; Li L; Xu ZP;* Gu Z,* 2020, '2D Layered Double Hydroxide Nanoparticles: Recent Progress toward Preclinical/Clinical Nanomedicine', Small Methods, vol. 4, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/smtd.201900343

5. Li B; Tang J; Chen W; Hao G; Kurniawan N; Gu Z;* Xu ZP*, 2018, 'Novel theranostic nanoplatform for complete mice tumor elimination via MR imaging-guided acid-enhanced photothermo-/chemo-therapy', Biomaterials, vol. 177, pp. 40 - 51, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2018.05.055, (IF 10.273)

6. Guo Z; Wang T; Rawal A; Hou J; Cao Z; Zhang H; Xu J; Gu Z;* Chen V; Liang K,* 2019, 'Biocatalytic self-propelled submarine-like metal-organic framework microparticles with pH-triggered buoyancy control for directional vertical motion', Materials Today, vol. 28, pp. 10 - 16, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mattod.2019.04.022.(IF 24.372)

7. Ge J; Zhang Q; Zeng J;* Gu Z;* Gao M, 2020, 'Radiolabeling nanomaterials for multimodality imaging: New insights into nuclear medicine and cancer diagnosis', Biomaterials, vol. 228, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2019.119553 (IF 10.273)

8. Qian X; Gu Z;* Chen Y,* 2017, 'Two-dimensional black phosphorus nanosheets for theranostic nanomedicine', Materials Horizons, vol. 4, pp. 800 - 816, http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c7mh00305f (IF 14.356)

9. Gu Z; Rolfe BE; Xu ZP; Thomas AC; Campbell JH; Lu GQM,* 2010, 'Enhanced effects of low molecular weight heparin intercalated with layered double hydroxide nanoparticles on rat vascular smooth muscle cells', Biomaterials, vol. 31, pp. 5455 - 5462, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.03.050 (IF: 10.273) (IF 10.273)

10. Gu Z; Thomas AC; Xu ZP; Campbell JH; Lu GQ,* 2008, 'In vitro sustained release of LMWH from MgAl-layered double hydroxide nanohybrids', Chemistry of Materials, vol. 20, pp. 3715 - 3722, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/cm703602t (IF 10.159)

(*Corresponding author)

Research Collaborations
Dr Gu collaborates with a number of active researchers from UNSW, The University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Tsinghua University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Cornell University, in multidisciplinary research.


We are looking for highly motivated, intelligent and team-playing students to do their PhD or Honours degrees in our group. 
Postgraduate Scholarship Opportunities
Domestic Research Scholarship: https://research.unsw.edu.au/domestic-research-scholarships
International Research Scholarship: https://research.unsw.edu.au/international-research-scholarships
UNSW-China Scholarship Council (CSC) Joint Scholarship program. For more details, click here. To apply CSC, click here. Top-up scholarship (7k pa) will be provided to CSC awardees.
UNSW / HEC Pakistan Joint Scholarship: https://research.unsw.edu.au/unsw-home-country-joint-scholarships;
UNSW / CONICYT Chile Joint Scholarship: https://research.unsw.edu.au/unsw-home-country-joint-scholarships;
Research Assistant positions are available at specific time.