Peng Chen

Peter J. W. Debye Professor


Professor Chen's Group develops and applies single-molecule imaging and manipulation approaches to interrogate and understand the function and dynamics of nanomaterials and biomacromolecules, with the goal of acquiring fundamental chemical knowledge for developing better strategies for energy conversion as well as for curing and preventing diseases.


  • 2024 Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2024 MilliporeSigma Lecture, St. Louis University
  • 2023 Chemistry Honors Program Lecture, Kent State University
  • 2019 Chemical Pioneer Award
  • 2019 Brian Bent Lecture, Columbia University
  • 2018 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2018 Bau Family Award in Inorganic Chemistry
  • 2018 Sessler Distinguished Alumni Lecture, Stanford University
  • 2017 Visiting Professor in the Debye Chair, Utrecht University
  • 2017 Catalysis Forum Lecture, DICP, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • 2016 Excellence in Catalysis Award, Catalysis Society of Metro New York
  • 2014 Early-Career Award in Experimental Physical Chemistry, ACS PHYS Division
  • 2014 Coblentz Award
  • 2013 Honorable Lecture, Applied Chemistry Lecture Series, CIAC, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • 2013 Lester S. Andrews Lecture, Mississippi State University
  • 2011 CAPA Distinguished Junior Faculty Award
  • 2010 Paul D. Saltman Memorial Award
  • 2009 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • 2007 NSF Career Award
  • 2005 Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award

Research Focus

Our research focuses on developing and applying single-molecule techniques to understand molecular processes of physical, bioinorganic, and biophysical in nature. Compared with traditional ensemble measurements, single-molecule approaches remove ensemble averaging, so that transient intermediates and heterogeneous subpopulations can be captured and characterized in both spatial and temporal dimensions and under realistic conditions. Current projects are divided into three main areas:

  1. Single-molecule catalysis. Here we study the catalytic, electrocatalytic, and photoelectrocatalytic properties of nanoscale materials and small-molecule catalysts at the single-turnover temporal resolution and nanometer spatial resolution. The goal here is to acquire chemical knowledge for developing better catalysts for chemical processing, fuel generation, and (solar) energy conversion.
  2. Single-molecule bioinorganic/biophysical chemistry. Here we study the dynamics and mechanisms of the protein machineries involved in cellular metal regulation, trafficking, and efflux both in vitro and in living cells, as well as of electron transport pathways related to energy conversion and biomass synthesis in living cells. The goal here is to acquire chemical and biological knowledge for developing strategies to cure and prevent diseases and for sustainable energy production/storage.
  3. Method development. In pursuit of our scientific interests, we also develop new methods and extend/improve existing methods to enable new experiments, especially single-molecule, single-particle, and single-cell level measurements.


See complete publication list at Group Website.

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