Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jefferson Chan

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Professor Chan received his BSc degree in chemistry from the University of British Columbia in 2006 and his PhD from Simon Fraser University in 2011. For his graduate research, he received the Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Doctoral Research Award for the top Canadian thesis in the areas of organic and bioorganic chemistry. From 2011-2014 he was a Human Frontiers Science Program Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. Chan joined the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2014.


Photoacoustic Imaging

Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is a powerful imaging modality that is based on the detection of sound waves generated by an optically excited chromophore. Due to the low scattering of sound in biological tissues, this state-of-the-art approach is ideal for non-invasive, deep-tissue bioimaging of live animals and human organs. Our group is currently developing bioorthoganol chemical probes for the early diagnosis of cancer. Moreover, we are applying these chemical tools to study tumor progression and metastasis in vivo.

Infectious Diseases

Tuberculosis (TB) is a widespread infectious disease caused by M. tuberculosis and is responsible for nearly two million deaths each year. Unfortunately, existing drugs are becoming obsolete owing to non-compliance which has led to the emergence of multiple and extensively drug-resistance strains. Drawing from our expertise in organic synthesis and mechanistic enzymology, we are currently developing new small-molecule inhibitors that target crucial TB-specific enzymatic activities to study and treat TB infections.

Neurological Disorders

Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) are characterized by a decline in cognitive abilities that result from neuronal cell death. It is believed that hypoxia, oxidative stress, metal ion signaling, and neurotransmission all play a role in the neuropathology of AD; however, their interplay is inadequately studied, especially in the context of in vivo biological systems. Our group is currently developing chemical and protein-based probes to discover the mechanisms underlying this medical condition.




  1. Li H,* Zhang P,* Smaga LP, Hoffman RA, Chan J. Photoacoustic probes for ratiometric imaging of copper(II). J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 15628-15631. article
  2. Roth A,* Li H,* Anorma C, Chan J. A reaction-based fluorescent probe for imaging of formaldehyde in living cells. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 10890-10893. article
  3. Nantasanti S, Spee B, Kruitwagen HS, Chen C, Geijsen N, Oosterhoff LA, van Wolferen ME, Pelaez N, Fieten H, Wubbolts RW, Grinwis GC, Chan J, Huch M, Vries RRG, Clevers H, de Bruin A, Rothuizen J, Penning LC, Schotanus BA. Disease modelling and gene therapy of copper storage disease in canine hepatic organoids. Stem Cell Reports 2015, 5, 895-907. article
  4. Chan J, Tang A, Bennet AJ. Transition-state structure for the hydronium ion-promoted hydrolysis of α-D-glucopyranosyl fluoride. Can J Chem 2015, 93, 463-467. article
  5. Dodani SC,* Firl A,* Chan J,* Nam CI, Aron AT, Onak CS, Ramos-Torres KM, Paek J, Webster CM, Feller MB, Chang CJ. Copper is an endogenous modulator of neural circuit spontaneous activity. PNAS 2014, 111, 16280-1625. [* = equal contribution] article
  6. Hong-Hermesdorf A, Miethke M, Gallaher SD, Kropat J, Dodani SC, Chan J, Barupala D, Domaille DW, Shirasaki DI, Loo JA, Weber PK, Pett-Ridge J, Stemmler TL, Chang CJ, Merchant SS. Subcellular metal imaging identifies dynamic sites of Cu accumulation in Chlamydomonas. Nature Chem. Biol. 2014, 10, 1034-1042. article
  7. Chan J, Sannikova N, Tang A, Bennet J. Transition-state structure for the quintessential SN2 reaction of a carbohydrate: Reaction of α-glucopyranosyl fluoride with azide ion in water. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 12225-12228. article
  8. Kashyap DR, Rompca A, Gaballa A, Helmann JD, Chan J, Chang CJ, Gupta D, Dziarski R. Peptidoglycan recognition proteins kill bacteria by inducing oxidative, thiol, and metal stress. PLoS Pathog. 2014, 10, 1-17. article
  9. Polishchuk EV, Concilli M, Iacobacci S, Chesi G, Pastore N, Piccolo P, Paladino S, Baldantoni D, van IJzendoorn SCD, Chan J, Chang CJ, Amoresano A, Pane F, Pucci P, Tarallo A, Parenti G, Brunetti-pierri N, Settembre C, Ballabio A, Polishchuck RS. Wilson disease protein ATP7B utilizes lysosomal exocytosis to maintain copper homeostasis. Dev. Cell. 2014, 29, 686-700. article
  10. Chan J, Chang CJ. Making light of stress. Nature Biotechnol. 2014, 32, 337-338. article
  11. Huang CP, Fofana M, Chan J, Chang CJ, Howell SB. Copper transporter 2 regulates intracellular copper and sensitivity to cisplatin. Metallomics 2014, 6, 654-661. article
  12. Hao Z, Lou H, Zhu R, Zhu J, Zhang D, Zhao BS, Zeng S, Chen X, Chan J, He C, Chen PR. The multiple antibiotic resistance regulator MarR is a copper sensor in Escherichia coli. Nature Chem. Biol. 2014, 10, 21-28. article
  13. Au-Yeung HY, Chan J, Chantarojsiri T, Chang CJ. Molecular imaging of labile iron(II) pools in living cells with a turn-on fluorescent probe. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 15165–15173. article
  14. Chan J, Dodani SC, Chang CJ. Reaction-based small-molecule fluorescent probes for chemoselective bioimaging. Nature Chem. 2012, 2, 973–984. article
  15. Macauley MS, Chan J, Zandberg W, He Y, Whitworth GA, Stubbs KA, Yuzwa SA, Bennet AJ, Varki A, Davies GJ, Vocadlo DJ. Metabolism of vertebrate amino sugars with N-glycolyl groups: Intracellular O-GlcNGc, UDP-GlcNGc, and the biochemical and structural rationale for the substrate tolerance of O-GlcNAcase. J. Biol. Chem. 2012, 287, 28882–28897. article
  16. Chan J, Lewis AR, Indurugalla D, Schur M, Wakarchuk W, Bennet AJ. Transition state analysis of Vibrio cholerae sialidase-catalyzed hydrolyses of natural substrate analogues. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 3748–3757. article
  17. Chan J, Tang A, Bennet AJ. A stepwise solvent-promoted SNi reaction of α-d-glucopyranosyl fluoride: mechanistic implications for retaining glycosyltransferases. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 1212–1220. article
  18. Chan J, Watson JN, Lu A, Borgford TJ, Bennet AJ. Bacterial and viral sialidases: Contribution of the conserved active site glutamate to catalysis. Biochemistry 2012, 51, 433–441. article
  19. Chan J, Bennet AJ. "Enzymology of influenza virus sialidase" in Influenza Virus Sialidase - A Drug Discovery Target, M. Von Itzstein (ed); Springer: New York, 2012, 47-66. article
  20. Chan J, Sandhu G, Bennet AJ. A mechanistic study of sialic acid mutarotation: Implications for mutarotase enzymes. Org. Biomol. Chem. 2011, 9, 4818–4822. article
  21. Chan J, Lu A, Bennet AJ. Turnover is rate-limited by deglycosylation for Micromonospora viridifaciens sialidase-catalyzed hydrolyses: Conformational implications for the Michaelis complex. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 2989–2997. article
  22. Telford JC, Yeung JHF, Xu G, Kiefel MJ, Watts AG, Hader S, Chan J, Bennet AJ, Moore MM, Taylor GL. The Aspergillus fumigatus sialidase is a 3-deoxy-d-glycero-d-galacto-2-nonulosonic acid hydrolase (KDNase): Structural and mechanistic insights. J. Biol. Chem. 2011, 286, 10783–10792. article
  23. Chan J, Lewis AR, Gilbert M, Karwaski M-F, Bennet AJ. A direct NMR method for the measurement of competitive kinetic isotope effects. Nature Chem. Biol. 2010, 6, 405–407. article


  • 2013 Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Doctoral Research Award

  • 2012 Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal

  • 2012 Human Frontier Science Program Postdoctoral Fellowship

  • 2010 Faculty of Science Excellence in Teaching Award

  • 2010 Bruker Prize in Chemical Spectroscopy

  • 2009 Varian Canada Inc. Award

  • 2008 Barbara Ferrier Chemistry Research Award

  • 2006 Creo Achievement Award in Chemistry



Jefferson Chan photo