Chemical Biology and Organic Chemistry; Bioinorganic and Inorganic Chemistry
New chemical tools for biological imaging and proteomics; new metal complexes for energy catalysis and green chemistry
Research in the Chang group is focused on two major areas: chemical biology and inorganic chemistry. At the interface of chemistry and biology, we use organic synthesis and/or protein engineering approaches to create new chemical tools for studying biological problems relevant to human health and disease. These novel imaging and proteomics probes are utilized to discover and study new biology, with applications spanning signal transduction, neurobiology, cancer, stem cell biology, and infectious diseases. On the inorganic side, we synthesize and characterize new earth-abundant, first-row transition metal complexes for energy catalysis and green chemistry applications. The group philosophy is to create new molecules for a targeted function and apply our novel chemistry to problems of broader interest. A selection of current project areas is described below.
Bioinorganic Chemistry: Metals in Neurobiology and Infectious Diseases. The chemistry of the brain offers a grand challenge for a molecular understanding of memory and senses like sight, smell, and taste, as well as developing new therapeutics for stroke, aging, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We are developing new fluorescent sensors, MRI contrast agents, and activity-based protein probes for imaging metals to study neurotransmission, neurodegeneration, and neural stem cell function in living cells and animals. Analogous new chemical tools are being developed to study the roles of metals during immune response in major third world infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis as well as in common E. coli. and Salmonella infections.
Chemical Biology: New Chemical Tools for Studying Signal Transduction. Owing to their small size and greater tunability, chemical probes can offer a precise and powerful approach to study biology at the cell and organism level with minimal perturbation to the native system compared to traditional biological methods. We are creating new fluorescent and bioluminescent sensors for imaging small signaling molecules like hydrogen peroxide and hydrogen sulfide, as well as developing new bioorthogonal reactions for proteomic mapping of post-translational modifications and activity-based protein profiling. Applications of this chemical toolbox to brain neuron, stem cell, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular systems are also being explored.
Inorganic Chemistry: Energy Catalysis and Green Chemistry. The development of sustainable, carbon-neutral energy technologies is critical to addressing climate change and rising global energy demands. Inspired by metalloenzyme active sites that support cheap and earth-abundant metals within well-defined first- and second-coordination spheres for catalysis, we are synthesizing new first-row transition metal complexes for electrocatalytic and photocatalytic activation of water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and related small molecules under green, aqueous conditions. The integration of these molecular catalysts into inorganic materials and biological scaffolds is also being pursued.
Professor; B.S./M.S. California Institute of Technology (1997); Fulbright Fellow Université Louis Pasteur (1997-1998); Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2002); NSF Predoctoral Fellow (1998-2001); MIT/Merck Foundation Predoctoral Fellow (2001-2002); Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT (2002-2004); Davison Thesis Prize (MIT, 2003); Dreyfus New Faculty Award (2004); Beckman Young Investigator Award (2005); American Federation for Aging Research Award (2005); NSF CAREER Award (2006); Packard Fellowship (2006); Sloan Fellowship (2007); Saltman Award, Metals in Biology GRC (2008); Amgen Young Investigator Award (2008); Hellman Faculty Award (2008); Bau Award in Inorganic Chemistry (2008); Technology Review TR35 Young Innovator Award (2008); Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (2008); Astra Zeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award (2009); Novartis Early Career Award (2009); ACS Cope Scholar Award (2010); SBIC Early Career Award (2011); Wilson Prize, Harvard University (2011); Miller Research Professor (2011-2012); ACS Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry (2012); RSC Award in Transition Metal Chemistry (2012); ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award in Graduate Education (2013); Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2013).