Christopher J. Chang

Chris Chang

Class of 1942 Chair
Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology
Member, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
Adjunct Professor, UCSF
office: 532A Latimer
lab: 401, 437 Latimer and 572, 574, and 584 Tan
phone: (510) 642-4704
fax: (510) 642-7301
lab phone: (510) 643-4160, (510) 643-9522

Research Group URL
Recent Publications

Research Interests

Chemical Biology, Bioinorganic Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry

Our laboratory studies metals in biology and energy by pursuing new concepts in sensing and catalysis that draw from core disciplines of inorganic, organic, and biological chemistry. We have developed activity-based sensing (ABS) as a general technology platform to enable biological applications and innovate imaging and diagnostics, proteomics, and drug discovery. These new chemical tools have identified copper, hydrogen peroxide, and formaldehyde as signals for regulating processes spanning neural activity and neurodegeneration to cancer and fat metabolism, opening a field of transition metal signaling. We are advancing artificial photosynthesis through the development of molecular catalysts for sustainable electrosynthesis that mimic enzyme biocatalysts or heterogeneous materials catalysts, as well as hybrid catalysts that merge design concepts from molecular, materials, and biological catalysts. Representative project areas are summarized below.

Transition Metal Signaling: Metalloallostery in the Brain and Beyond. We are advancing a new paradigm of transition metal signaling, where essential nutrients like copper and iron can serve as dynamic signals for biology by binding to metalloallosteric sites to regulate protein function beyond traditional active sites. We are developing activity-based sensing (ABS) probes for fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging of dynamic transition metal pools, chemoproteomic identification and biochemical characterization of new metalloprotein targets, and drug discovery to treat disease within the lens of metalloplasias. We work across cell, zebrafish, and mouse models to study transition metal signaling in cancer, obesity and fatty liver disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Activity-Based Sensing: Redox and One-Carbon Signaling. We are developing the concept of activity-based sensing (ABS), which is emerging field that utilizes chemical reactivity rather than conventional lock-and-key binding to probe and manipulate biological systems. We are creating activity-based probes for fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging of reactive oxygen species and one-carbon units, as well as bioconjugation chemistry, chemoproteomics, and drug discovery to identify and drug new targets of redox and one-carbon signaling and metabolism in cell and animal models.

Artificial Photosynthesis: Catalyzing Sustainable Electrosynthesis. We are developing catalysts for sustainable electrosynthesis to address changing climate and rising global energy demands. Inspired by natural photosynthesis, which catalyzes conversion of the abundant chemical resources of light, water, and carbon dioxide to produce the value-added products needed to sustain life, we are taking a unified approach to this small-molecule activation problem by creating molecular electrocatalysts for carbon dioxide reduction and nitrogen/phosphorus cycling that draw on design principles from molecular, materials, and biological catalysis and operate in water.


  • Born 1974
  • 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 Family 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)
  • ACS Baekeland Award (2013)
  • Sackler Professor, UC Berkeley/UCSF (2014-2015)
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (2015)
  • Blavatnik Award in Chemistry (2015)
  • Cruickshank Award, Gordon Research Conferences (2016)
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017)
  • RSC Jeremy Knowles Award (2018)
  • Sackler Prize in Chemistry (2019)