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Peng Chen

Peter J. W. Debye Professor

Peng Chen

Olin Chemistry Research Wing, Room 280A

Educational Background

  • Postdoc, Harvard University, 2004-2005
  • PhD, Stanford University, 2004
  • BS, Nanjing University, 1997



Professor Chen's Group develops and applies single-molecule 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.


Single-molecule super-resolution imaging, nanoscale (photo)(electro)catalysis, polymerization catalysis, bioinorganic/biophysical chemistry, bacterial cell imaging, energy conversion


  • Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Graduate Fields

  • Chemistry and Chemical Biology
  • Biophysics


Our research focuses on developing and applying single-molecule techniques to solve scientific problems 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. Current projects are divided into two 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 molecular processes related to protein folding in living cells. The goal here is to acquire chemical and biological knowledge for developing strategies to cure and prevent diseases.
  3. Method development. In pursuit of our scientific interests, sometimes we develop new methods or extend/improve existing methods to enable new experiments, especially single-molecule/particle level measurements.



See complete publication list at Group Website.