Zijian (William) Niu

2024 Hertz Fellow
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Zijian (William) Niu is interested in the intersection of structural biology and machine learning. Specifically, he aims to develop novel methods for imaging proteins and other biomolecules in their native cellular environments, and leverage that data to build computational models for predicting their dynamics and molecular interactions.

In fall 2024, he will start a doctoral program in computational and systems biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Niu will receive his bachelor’s in biochemistry, biophysics and physics from the University of Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate, Niu worked in the Lab for Systems Biology with Professor Arjun Raj to develop novel computational methods for biological image analysis. He created a deep-learning algorithm for accurately detecting tiny diffraction-limited spots in fluorescence microscopy images that outperformed existing methods in quantifying spatial transcriptomics data. For this work, he was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2023. He has also worked with Professor Sydney Shaffer on investigating the molecular origins of Barrett’s esophagus and its progression toward esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Outside of research, Niu is deeply committed to peer mentorship and scientific outreach. At the University of Pennsylvania, he was an Organic Chemistry Workshop Leader, vice president of Community Outreach at the Penn Undergraduate Chemistry Society and an event supervisor for Science Olympiad at Penn. He also co-founded Project Lucid, an initiative to promote effective science communication among Penn undergraduates.

Niu was born in Kaifeng, China, and grew up in Shanghai. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 2010 and now resides in Winchester, Massachusetts. In his free time, he enjoys speed-cubing, where he solves the Rubik’s Cube and other twisty puzzles as fast as possible. He is also an avid hiker and enjoys spending time with his family in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Graduate Studies

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Computational and Systems Biology

Undergraduate Studies

University of Pennsylvania

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