Boxin Zhao

Chemical Engineering Professor

Here’s a head-scratcher for you: What do geckos and Post-it notes have in common?

Stumped? Boxin Zhao, a chemical engineering professor, isn’t. For over five years he has been researching the amazing adhesive properties of lizards’ tiny footpads to find out exactly why geckos’ feet can stick to any surface – rough, smooth, dry and wet – and detach in milliseconds.

Armed with an understanding of the footpads’ physical and chemical nature, he’s now moving on to material design, aiming to engineer a new reversible and responsive adhesive.

“As a material scientist, I want to turn this knowledge of the phenomena into something that can be used,” he says. Zhao is exploring biomedical applications that include using the adhesive as an alternative to stitches and in reconstructive material to reduce scarring when treating burn and cancer patients.