Dr. Zheng is a Professor of Health Sciences and Toxicology in the School of Health Sciences at Purdue University. From 1993 to 2003, Dr. Zheng held a joint appointment as an Assistant Professor (1993-2000) and later Associate Professor (2000-2003) in School of Public Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City. He came to Purdue University in 2003 and became a professor in 2006. From 2008 to 2017, Dr. Zheng took the leadership role serving as the Head of the School of Health Sciences, an academic unit that comprises more than 25 faculty and research staff, 580 undergraduate majors, and 60 graduate students, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Currently, he is the Director of the Trace Element Toxicological Research Laboratory engaging in benchtop and human subject studies of metal-induced neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and essential tremors for better diagnosis, prevention and chelation therapy. He teaches the core courses of HSCI101 (Introduction to Health Science Professions) and participates in teaching other courses such as HSCI345 (Introduction to Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences) and HSCI560 (Toxicology).
During his tenure at Columbia and now at Purdue, Dr. Zheng's research team has been conducting pioneer investigations exploring contributions of the brain barrier system, especially the blood-CSF barrier, in chemical-induced neurodegenerative disorders. His primary research interest and major discoveries in metal toxicological research include: (1) a seminal finding that lead (Pb) accumulation in brain choroid plexus reduces the production of transthyretin, a protein transporting thyroid hormones and beta-amyloids in the central nervous system; (2) his original research that unveils the molecular mechanism by which iron (Fe) and copper (Cu) are transported by the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and blood-CSF barrier (BCB) and how exposure to toxic metal manganese (Mn) alters these processes, leading to Mn-induced parkinsonism; (3) his novel discovery of a distinct function of Pb in the formation of amyloid plaques and the importance of brain barrier’s integrity in the pathoetiology of Alzheimer’s disease; (4) his effort in translating laboratory discoveries to human health intervention by exploring cohorts of smelters, welders and battery workers for better characterization of metal exposure and for more effective metal chelation therapy; and (5) his leadership role in fostering collaborations among metal toxicologists, medical device engineers, physicists, epidemiologists, and environmental health field workers for large-scale human studies of metal-induced disorders. He has authored one book, 180 original research manuscripts and more than 230 conference proceedings and abstracts. His research has been supported by the funds mainly by continuous NIH R01 grants (since 1994), U.S. Department of Defense contracts, and other awards from pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly.
Dr. Zheng has been participating in more than 70 NIH study section reviews or other governmental, industrial and academic peer- review panels, and was a standing member of NIH/Environmental Health Sciences Review Committee (2003-2007) and NIH/Neurotoxicology and Alcohol Study Section (2008-2012). He was an elected President of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Metal Specialty Section (2009-2011), the President of International Neurotoxicology Conference (a joint conference of the Int’l Neurotoxicology Association and the Int’l Commission on Occupational Health) in 2011, and the President of the International Society for Trace Element Research in Humans (ISTERH) (2017-2021). He is the Chair of the Board of Publication of the SOT (2017-2019) and has been serving as the member of the Editorial Boards of Toxicology Letters, Experimental Biology and Medicine, and Fluids and Barriers of CNS. Dr. Zheng received the Best Publication Award by the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine in 2005, the title of University Faculty Scholar by Purdue University, the Distinguished Chinese Toxicologist by the American Association of Chinese in Toxicology in 2010, the Carrier Achievement Award by the Society of Toxicology Metal Specialty Section in 2015, and the Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences (ATS) in 2016. Dr. Zheng has been invited as an Adjunct Professor of Peking University, Zhejiang University, and Zunyi Medical College.