Dr. Chong Fang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Oregon State University, has been awarded one of the prestigious 2015 NSF CAREER Awards.
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide program that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. A CAREER grant should build a firm foundation for the recipient for a lifetime of research excellence and creative leadership in integrating education and research. NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from junior faculty members at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.
This NSF CAREER Award will fund Dr. Fang’s research for the next five years. His current research focuses on developing state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques to reveal the fluorescence mechanisms of green fluorescent protein (GFP) derivatives and emerging fluorescent protein biosensors. These colorful biomolecules originally derived from jellyfish floating in the Pacific ocean and later from coral reefs near Australia have revolutionized bioimaging for almost two decades. However, these biosensors still suffer from drawbacks in photostability, brightness, detection depth, and color contrast, etc. The key to rationally design the next-generation biosensors with improved and targeted properties lies in the mechanistic understanding of molecular fluorescence, emitted from the chromophore that is an organic moiety embedded in the center of the protein pocket.
The femtosecond Raman methodology implemented in the Fang lab will resolve the choreography of chromophore motions, to the detail of transporting a single proton upon photoexcitation, with the time resolution of a billionth of a millionth of a second. These unique and powerful experiments will provide previously hidden governing factors for the structural evolution of chromophores and the emission outcomes in emerging GFP-related biosensors, and can be extended to other photosensitive systems. The vivid molecular “movie” that is captured during chemical reactions and biological functions opens new ways to study physical chemistry and quantum mechanics in action.
“Winning this NSF CAREER award not only provides the crucial resources we need to bring our current femtosecond Raman methodology to the next level, both in technical innovation and sample applications, but also assures us that the scientific problems we are tackling hold transformative and broad impact.” Fang says. “Our group will use the newly available resources to systematically elucidate fluorescence mechanisms in an emerging group of protein biosensors, and pinpoint strategic atomic sites that protein designers and engineers can target to rationally improve the properties of those biosensors. The fundamental understanding of how things work, at the same time, is always a fascinating journey that keeps us inspired and motivated.”
Dr. Fang grew up in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. He earned dual B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Applied Computer Science at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). He continued on to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania under the tutelage of Prof. Robin Hochstrasser (1931-2013) and obtained his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry (2006). He performed postdoctoral research with Prof. Richard Mathies at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the OSU Chemistry Faculty in September 2010. Dr. Fang’s research group currently boasts one postdoc and six graduate students. Some of Dr. Fang’s other noted awards are the GRF and RERF Fund Awards at OSU, Dean’s Scholar Award at UPenn and the Guo Moruo Scholarship at USTC.
Chemistry Department Chair, Dr. Rich Carter, stated, “I am thrilled to see Chong’s significant scientific and educational accomplishments acknowledged by the NSF through this award. He is one of the leading young chemists in his area internationally and this honor is well deserved.”