Born and raised in Zhengzhou, China, Du Cheng found himself constantly frustrated by the education system’s emphasis on memorization. Du wanted to debate, research, invent, and create. When he moved to the US halfway through his college career to attend Humboldt State University, he felt he could finally give back to the world of knowledge he had spent so long simply regurgitating. Soon enough, Du began microbiology and stem cell research, which led to 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals, four of which he was the first-author on, as an undergraduate.
College was also where Du developed his first invention. Looking around a classroom lab, Du saw his fellow students attempting to take photos through their microscopes without much success due to optical alignment issues. Du took a Styrofoam prototype of a phone to microscope adapter to his professor and university president who introduced him to the patenting process. Soon enough, Du had a company and was manufacturing iDu Optics® microscope adapters for iPhone.
As a medical student and PhD candidate in the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller U/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program, Du has designed an innovation curriculum and taught his own courses on the topic. He has so far instructed over 100 physicians and medical students in 3D printing.
Du is pursuing his PhD research in Rockefeller University’s Dr. Cori Bargmann’s lab. Du’s research is focused on the functional connection between neural circuits and behavioral traits using genetics, advanced imaging, and computational analyses. For example, when someone has a bad experience they are likely to avoid aspects of that experience in the future—Du is interested in the neural processes behind this to better understand, and potentially control, our motivations consciously, or, when needed, pharmacologically.
Du’s other on-going inventions include a cell phone retinal imaging device and a 3D-printed model for neurosurgery planning, both of which are currently in the clinical studies phase. Du hopes to use technology to facilitate advancements in research and healthcare access as a physician-scientist and to improve quality of life for everyone.