Frank Gu

Adjunct Professor
Frank Gu

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Frank Gu
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Biography summary

Frank Gu is a Chemical Engineering Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo and is also the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology Engineering. Professor Gu heads an interdisciplinary research group that combines functional polymers and polymer metal oxide materials to solve problems in medicine, agriculture and environmental protection.

Professor Gu’s lab specializes in the development of self-assembled polymeric nanoparticles for the delivery of conventional small molecule therapeutic agents. The research strives to improve the therapeutic index of currently available drugs by optimizing their efficacy and toxicity. They are exploring treatment administration methods and plan to package the treatment in customized nanoparticles that bind to the eye mucus membranes, while the centre of the nanoparticle is designed to trap the drug so that it stays on the eye for as long as a week. The applications are for glaucoma treatment, dry eye syndrome, allergy and bacterial infections of the eye.

Professor Gu’s lab also specializes in developing photocatalytic nanomaterials for environmental applications. Photocatalysis is an extremely powerful advanced oxidation process (AOP) which can utilize sunlight to drive treatment of surface waters, with the potential to address a broad spectrum of organic contaminants. Nanotechnology has great potential to address environmental issues, as nanostructuring offers access to new material properties, while high specific surface areas lead to exceptional treatment activity and efficiency. Gu’s lab recently demonstrated the potential of photocatalysis to completely remove toxic compounds from industrial wastewater, where the advantages of this process are easy scalability and the ability to recycle the catalyst for multiple uses. Effective nanoparticle recovery following treatment has previously been a roadblock to large-scale implementation of photocatalysis, but the team have developed innovative nanoengineering solutions to address this challenge.

An innovative biodegradable device is also another application designed by Professor Gu and his team for Advanced Targeted Delivery Systems. This device targets plant roots and provides what is essential to them, be it water, nutrients or other bioactive materials. The biodegradable device does not generate water itself, however it can store and release it when needed. By targeting the root system of plants, the current cost and practice of fertilization water spreading into lakes can be avoided. Yet another interesting feature of the device is the fact that it decomposes when its purpose is served, thus exemplifying sustainable agriculture.

Professor Gu’s nanoparticle developing research has resulted in over 150 scientific publications in peer reviewed journals and conference proceedings, as well as over 20 US and world patent applications.

Frank Gu is a member of the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (

Research interests

  • Nanomedicine
  • Drug delivery
  • Controlled release
  • Chemotherapeutics
  • Polymer engineering
  • Bioconjugated chemistry
  • Reaction kinetics
  • Bionanotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Separation Processes
  • Connectivity and Internet of Things
  • Biosensor and Diagnostics
  • Glaucoma and Blindness
  • Corneal Infection and Allergy Treatment
  • Ophthalmic Care
  • Biomarkers Detection
  • Point of Care Diagnosis
  • Photocatalysts
  • Drinking Water Treatment
  • Waste Water Treatment
  • Nanotechnology and nanomedicine
  • Targeted drug delivery systems
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Water
  • IoT
  • Devices
  • Application Domains
  • Biochemical and Biomedical Engineering
  • Interfacial Phenoma
  • Colloids and Porous Media


  • 2008, Postdoctoral Fellow, Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2006, Doctorate, Chemical Engineering, Queen's University

Selected/recent publications

  • Holmes, Andrew B and Gu, Frank X, Real-time monitoring of nanoscale TiO2 concentration by spectrophotometry: Implications of agglomeration due to natural organic matter and multivalent ions, Environmental technology, 2018, 1 - 33
  • Leshuk, Timothy and Holmes, Andrew and Ranatunga, Duleeka and Chen, Paul Z and Jiang, Yunsheng and Gu, Frank, Magnetic flocculation for nanoparticle separation and catalyst recycling, Environmental Science: Nano, 2018
  • Bedford, Erin E and Boujday, Souhir and Pradier, Claire-Marie and Gu, Frank X, Spiky gold shells on magnetic particles for DNA Biosensors, Talanta, 2018
  • Jahed, Zeinab and Shahsavan, Hamed and Verma, Mohit S and Rogowski, Jacob L and Seo, Brandon B and Zhao, Boxin and Tsui, Ting Y and Gu, Frank X and Mofrad, Mohammad RK, Bacterial networks on hydrophobic micropillars, ACS nano, 11(1), 2017, 675 - 683
  • Liu, Shengyan and Tsugimatsu, Aya and Chang, Chu-Ning and Liang, Huiyuan and Reyad, Matthew-Mina and Boyd, Shelley and Jones, Lyndon William and Gu, Frank, Tracking ocular retention of precorneal formulations using near-infrared dyes, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 58(8), 2017, 4444 - 4444

Graduate studies