I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Virginia Tech. I was formerly an NSF DIRAC-RTG postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of California, Merced. In 2022 I was supported by the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Intersect Fellowship. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
I am an applied mathematician working in mathematical biology. My research lies at the interface of dynamical systems, numerical analysis, uncertainty quantification, inverse problems, and their applications to complex biological systems. In addition to developing and analyzing mathematical models, I have also gained hands-on experience in experimental design through collaboration with biologists.
I co-founded the Math and Computer Science Research Engagement (MCoRE) group at UC Merced in Fall 2022, a group aims to foster academic engagements between UC Merced and the local community in order to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, both in industry and academia. MCoRE is currently supported by a Civic Engagement Microgrant from Research!America.

About Me


  • Ph.D. in Mathematics, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette), 2012–2017
  • B.S. in Fundamental and Applied Mathematics, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT), 2007–2011

Academic Appointment

Selected Awards


  • Introduction to Complexity, Santa Fe Institute. Certificate earned on Dec 4, 2019. [URL]
  • Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos, Santa Fe Institute. Certificate earned on Dec 3, 2019. [URL]
  • Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling, Santa Fe Institute. Certificate earned on Sept 17, 2019. [URL]
  • R Programming, Johns Hopkins University, Coursera. Certificate earned on June 21, 2019. [URL]
  • The Data Scientist’s Toolbox, Johns Hopkins University, Coursera. Certificate earned on June 10, 2019. [URL]



I develop and analyze mathematical models to explain observed experimental dynamics of biological systems and gain insight into underlying mechanisms. I believe that mathematical biology at its best requires an iterative approach in developing mathematical and biological understanding, in which biological phenomena motivate the development and refinement of mathematical models, and mathematical results guide the refinement of empirical studies. I have used this iterative approach in my research, and the mathematical techniques I use are tailored to the specific scenario.
My work has involved both analytical and numerical approaches, inverse problem methodologies, stochastic and deterministic modeling frameworks, bioinformatic analysis, and multi-scale modeling approaches. Below is a list of selected ongoing projects.


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

  • Lihong Zhao, Stephanie R. Lundy, Francis O. Eko, Joeseph U. Igietseme, Yusuf O. Omosun. ``Genital tract microbiome dynamics are associated with time of Chlamydia infection''. Scientific Reports (2023) 13:9006. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-36130-3
  • Zhuolin Qu, Denis Patterson, Lauren Childs, Christina Edholm, Joan Ponce, Olivia Prosper, Lihong Zhao. ``Modeling Immunity to Malaria with an Age-Structured PDE Framework''. SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics (2023) 83(3):1098-1125. doi: 10.1137/21M1464427
  • Lihong Zhao, Fabian Santiago, Erica M. Rutter, Shilpa Khatri, Suzanne Sindi. ``Modeling and Global Sensitivity Analysis of Strategies to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission on a Structured College Campus''. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology (2023) 85:13. doi: 10.1007/s11538-022-01107-2
  • A. Ali Heydari, Oscar A. Davalos, Lihong Zhao, Katrina K. Hoyer, Suzanne S. Sindi. ``ACTIVA: realistic single-cell RNA-seq generation with automatic cell-type identification using introspective variational autoencoders''. Bioinformatics (2022): btac095. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btac095
  • Azmy S. Ackleh, Karyn L. Sutton, Tinging Tang, Lihong Zhao. ``A Second Order Finite Difference Scheme for a Variable Infection-Structured Model of Mycobacterium marinum Dynamics in Aquatic Animals''. Journal of Nonlinear and Variational Analysis (2018) 2(2):177-202. doi: 10.23952/jnva.2.2018.2.06
  • Karyn L. Sutton, Lihong Zhao, Jacoby Carter. ``The Estimation of Growth Dynamics for Pomacea maculata from Hatchling to Adult''. Ecosphere (2017) 8(7): e01840. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1840
  • Jared T. Guilbeau, Md Istiaq Hossain, Sam D. Karhbet, Ralph Baker Kearfott, Temitope S. Sanusi, Lihong Zhao. ``A Review of Computation of Mathematically Rigorous Lower Bounds on Optima of Linear Integer Programs''. Journal of Global Optimization (2017) 68:677-683. doi: 10.1007/s10898-016-0489-2

Peer-Reviewed Articles in Proceedings:

  • Lihong Zhao, Ruby Kim, Lucy S. Oremland, Mukti Chowkwale, Lisette G. de Pillis, and Heather Z. Brooks. ''A survey of mathematical modeling of hormonal contraception and the menstrual cycle''.

Other Articles:

  • Lihong Zhao. ``The Vaginal Microbiota and Its Association with Chlamydia''. SIAM News, December 14, 2022. [link]
  • Jared T. Guilbeau, Md Istiaq Hossain, Sam D. Karhbet, Ralph Baker Kearfott, Temitope S. Sanusi, Lihong Zhao. ``Advice for mathematically rigorous bounds on optima of linear programs''. Technical report, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2016). [pdf]

Under Review:

  • Susana Tejeda-Garibay, Lihong Zhao, Nicholas Hum, Maria Pimentel, Anh L. Diep, Dina R. Weilhammer, Gabriela G. Loots, Katrina K. Hoyer. ``In vitro Inhibition of Coccidioides Growth by the Tracheal and Intestinal Microbiomes''.


Instructor of Record:

  • Preparation for Calculus (Math 1214), Virginia Tech                                                        Fall 2023
  • Mathematical Modeling (MATH 150), UC Merced                                                        Spring 2023
  • Probability and Statistics (MATH 32), UC Merced                  Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021
  • Elementary and Intermediate Algebra (MATH 92), UL Lafayette                            Spring 2012

Co-organizer and Instructor of Record:

  • Workshop “R for Reproducible Science”(BCB 503-02), UI                                Feb. 27-28, 2020

Graduate Teaching Assistant


McBryde Hall

Office: McBryde 554
460 McBryde Hall, Virginia Tech
225 Stanger Street
Blacksburg, VA 24061-1026
Email: lhzhao (at) vt (dot) edu