Professor Yu-Ling Cheng was born in Taiwan, and attended junior high and high school in Colorado after her family immigrated to the U.S. She began her academic career as an undergraduate at MIT, where she was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering Practice. She then moved to Stanford University to pursue PhD studies in Chemical Engineering. After earning her PhD, she worked at ALZA Corporation in Palo Alto, California where she conducted research and product development on transdermal drug delivery systems and bioerodible polymers for drug delivery before joining the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto in 1989. Professor Cheng’s research interests have remained centred around drug delivery, with a continuing thread in the development of novel materials for drug delivery and other biomedical applications, and the understanding of diffusion and mass transfer in polymeric systems.
Professor Cheng has contributed to the education mission of the university in many ways. She taught courses in physical chemistry, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, biotransport, vector calculus, polymer chemistry, and mass transfer in polymers. Her Engineering Thermodynamics course was described by one former student as “the stuff of legend.” She played a key role in the design of the Biomedical Option in Engineering Science in 1995, and later served as Option Chair. In her role as Chair of the Division of Engineering Science (2000-2005), her dedication to her students was described as inspiring "loyalty and respect" as well as "affection and admiration". She also successfully oversaw significant enrollment expansion, led the development of an ambitious academic plan, and spearheaded a renewal of the curriculum.
Professor Cheng has received numerous teaching awards including the Chem Club students' Professor of the Year Award three times, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering's Faculty Teaching Award in 1995, the Ontario Colleges and Universities Faculty Association Teaching Award for 1994-95, and the Ontario Ministry of Education's inaugural Leadership in Faculty Teaching (LIFT) Award in 2007. Her broader contributions were recognized by the UofT Chapter of Women in Science and Engineering's Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award in 2005, and by the University of Toronto Alumni Association's Awards of Excellence Faculty Award in 2007.