Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering
Departmental Website

B.Sc., Chemistry, Beijing University
Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Chicago

Contact Information:
Office: 235 Spalding
Email: zgw at caltech dot edu
Phone: x4647

Chemical Engineering, MC 210-41
California Institute of Technology
1200 E. California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125


Modern Chemical Engineering has become an increasingly molecular-based discipline. Statistical mechanics, which provides the bridge between the molecular constitution and interaction on the one hand and the macroscopic properties and behaviors on the other, is therefore playing an ever more important role in chemical engineering. In our group, we use statistical mechanics to study a host of problems in the interdisciplinary areas of physical chemistry, material science and biophysics. Current research projects include nucleation phenomena in the phase transformation of complex fluids, dynamics of topologically constrained polymers, structure and dynamics of physical gels, charge solvation effects on the thermodynamics of polymer blends and block copolymers, viral DNA packaging, and cell adhesion. A central goal of our work is to understand and predict properties based on the molecular characteristics of matter and systems. We strive to obtain simple insight to seemingly complex problems. In this regard, we are very much guided by the following quotation from J. W. Gibbs: “One of the principal objects of theoretical research… is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.” In line with this philosophy, we build coarse-grained models that capture the most essential features of the problems at hand without undue microscopic details, which are solved with a combination of modern analytical and numerical methods of statistical mechanics, including density functional theory, self-consistent field method, field-theoretical techniques, Monte Carlo simulation and Brownian Dynamics simulation.


Ch/ChE 164 Statistical Thermodynamics (Winter Term every year)
Ch/ChE 148 Polymer Physics (Spring Term every odd year)


Braskem Award for Excellence in Materials Engineering and Science, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2018)
Xing Da Lecturer, College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, Peking University (2018)
Robert Scott Lecturer, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCLA (2015)
Albert Moscowitz Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota (2015)
Michael M. Abbott Lecturer, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2009)
Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching (Caltech) (2008)
Fellow, American Physical Society (2001)
Alfred P.Sloan Award (1996)
Richard M. Badger Teaching Prize (Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Caltech) (1995)
Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (1995)
Visiting Research Fellow, The Institute for Advanced Studies, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel (1993)
Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award (1991)