Juewen Liu

Professor, Chemistry

Research interests: functional DNA, biosensors, nanozymes, and biointerface chemistry


Over the past six years, Professor Juewen Liu has published over 200 research papers on DNA/lipid-based sensors and functional materials with a total citation number close to two thousand.

Liu is a leader in the field of bionanotechnology. His lab employs DNA, liposomes, hydrogels, and various inorganic nanoparticles as building blocks to construct functional nanomaterials for analytical and biomedical applications. He is also interested in the biotechnology of combinatorial DNA aptamer selection.

Liu joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo in July 2009. Prior to his current appointment at University of Waterloo, he worked for two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Micro-Engineered Materials in the University of New Mexico, and the Advanced Materials Laboratory in Sandia National Labs, where he developed a novel drug delivery vehicle based on mesoporous silica nanoparticle supported phospholipid bilayers. He is currently interested in selection of functional DNA molecules for catalysis and molecular recognition, enzyme mimics using nanomaterials (nanozymes), adsorption of DNA and lipids on various nanoscale surfaces, and biosensor development.


  • PhD, Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005

  • BSc, Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China, 2000

Juewen Liu

Awards and Honours

Year Awards and Honours
2019 Member of the Royal Society of Canada, College New Scholars Artists and Scientists
2018 W.A.E. McBryde Medal from Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC)
2017 University Research Chair
2015 Paper listed in Langmuir 30th anniversary virtual issue as one of the journal's most important articles in surface science and colloid science
2014 Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC) Fred Beamish Award in recognition of innovative research in analytical chemistry with significant practical applications
2011 Ontario Early Researcher Award
2004 T.S. Piper Award for the best thesis in inorganic chemistry, University of Illinois
2003 Ullyot Fellowship, University of Illinois
2002 Department of Chemistry Fellowship, University of Illinois
2002 Biosensors Bioelectronics Award Runner-Up


Producing bio-inspired materials

Professor Liu’s research group applies fundamental principles of chemistry, physics, engineering, and biology to produce bio-inspired materials, devices and systems; for bioanalytical chemistry, targeted drug delivery, and nanomedicine. Biological systems (such as cells) are formed by hierarchy supramolecular assembly of biopolymers (proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides, and lipids) that have remarkable molecular recognition functions and thus allow the researchers to use them as templates to manipulate nanoscale objects with great precision. Professor Liu’s group is working to learn from biology and create bio-inspired assembly of nanostructures and devices at the bio/abio interface with novel properties and functions. The goal is to use these nanomaterials to probe and understand biology and to impact medicine.

Effecting medical intervention at the molecular scale

Nanomedicine utilizes nanoscale materials and principles to effect medical intervention at the molecular scale with the goal of curing diseases or repairing tissues. Drug delivery is one of the most important and promising areas in nanomedicine. Dr Liu’s group aims to tailor interactions between multi-functional nanomaterials with biological systems to achieve targeted diagnosis and therapy. The group is interested in developing targeting ligands and delivering a wide range of therapeutic agents including plasmid DNA, Small interfering RNA (siRNA), antisense DNA, protein, and small molecules and will initially focus on cancer and bacterial cells.

Environmental monitoring sensors

Professor Liu developed a number of highly sensitive and selective fluorescent sensors with catalytic DNA for heavy metal detection, including lead, copper, mercury, and uranium. These sensors are useful for environmental monitoring. A start-up company, ANDalyze Inc., has been incorporated to commercialize some of the technologies for heavy metal detection. In his current group, Professor Liu is interested in making biosensors based on novel materials and mechanisms. He is also interested in developing new methods to obtain functional DNA that can recognize a broad range of molecules important for environmental monitoring and disease diagnosis.

Research interests

  • Bio-inspired self-assembly and bionanotechnology

  • DNA aptamers

  • Targeted drug delivery/nanomedicine

  • Bioinorganic/bioanalytical chemistry