Herb Cheung to sizeProfessor Emeritus

Research Areas
Structural biology, molecular contractility of skeletal and cardiac muscle, flourescence spectroscopy, and repid kinetics




Herbert C. Cheung was born in Canton, China in 1931 and came to the U.S. in 1950 as an international student to attend Rutgers University. He graduated in 1954 with an A.B. with honors, in chemistry and physics. Two years later, he received an M.S. degree in physical chemistry with a minor in physics from Cornell University. With a Corn Industry Research Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship, he returned to Rutgers for the Ph.D. in physical chemistry with a minor in physics (1960). After several years working as an industrial chemist, he was awarded a Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship to attend the Cardiovascular Research Institute, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center (1966-69). This fellowship under Manuel F. Morales provided him with the training and expertise for a long research and academic career in skeletal and cardiac muscle research, fluorescence spectroscopy/FRET, and rapid biochemical kinetics. He joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 1969 as an Associate Professor of Engineering Biophysics with secondary appointments in several departments, including the Department of Biochemistry, and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. The secondary appointments provided him with an early opportunity to collaborate and interact with colleagues in related areas at an early stage of his career at UAB. Subsequently, he joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics as Professor, and was heavily involved in development of graduate courses in physical biochemistry, teaching in the medical and dental biochemistry courses for over two decades. In 2006 he became Professor Emeritus. He continued to serve on the dissertation committees of his last graduate student and several other graduate students in two different departments. During this last period, he completed his last two NIH research grants in 2009. These two grants ran consecutively for over twenty-five years.


Research Interests

Cheung’s early interests centered on exploration of different physical methodologies for investigations of skeletal and cardiac muscle mechanisms and development of fluorescence methodologies for these studies, including time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) in the steady state and in the millisecond-nanosecond range. These studies included single-molecule and single-particle FRET of cardiac muscle regulatory proteins. These methodologies were also used in collaboration with colleagues in other biochemical and biological systems.

Internal Service and Recognition (since 1980)

  • Faculty Senate (elected), 2000-2002
  • Medical School Dean’s Joint Health Sciences Faculty Status Committee (elected), 1997-1999
  • Nominated by students in Joint Health Sciences for the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (1998)
  • Cancer Center Review Committee (multiple years)
  • CMB Graduate Program Admissions Committee (multiple years)
  • Sigma Xi Graduate Student Research Day, Chair (1986)
  • Medical School Dean's Cardiology Visitors Committee (1980)
  • Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Committee for Biochemistry (Chair 1992-93); Subcommittee on Physical Biochemistry (1992-93, Chair, 1992-98)

Honors, Awards, And External Service Committees (since 1970)

  • NIH Research Career Development Award (RCDA), 1971-1976
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Fluorescence (1996-2000)
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Center for Fluorescence Spectroscopy (NIH P41 Center), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD (2000-2004, Chair 2003, 2004; 2005-2008)
  • Journal of Fluorescence, Editorial Board (1996-2000)
  • NIH Study Sections: Physical Biochemistry Student Section, two terms (1980-84, 1996-2000)
  • Other Study Sections (BBCB, Chair, 1986; and other special sections > 15 over a 30-year period)
  • Visiting Professorship: NIH Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program
    • University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1982
    • Dillard University, New Orleans, LA, 1986
    • Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN, 1988


Graduate School

Ph.D., Rutgers University

Postdoctoral Fellowship

University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA