(781) 283-3255
B.S., Bilkent University (Turkey); Ph.D., Boston University

Didem Vardar-Ulu
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

A biophysical chemist, passionate about collaborative research and education efforts at the interface between life and physical sciences.

As a biophysical chemist, I like to understand why things are the way they are, and how they do what they do at a molecular level. In particular, I am intrigued by the rules that govern macromolecular structure, dynamics, and folding, especially of proteins, as they pertain to function and regulation. In my laboratory, we combine a variety of biophysical and biochemical methods to study molecular structure, conformational change, protein stability, and intermolecular interactions, such as ligand binding. Since most of the proteins involved in important biological pathways are large multi-domain proteins, making it challenging to study them at a molecular level, we heavily rely on protein dissection methodology, where a multi-domain protein is studied as an assembly of structurally independent, small functional units that can be characterized in isolation. The molecular level information about these isolated domains can then be transferred or applied to other proteins with similar domains.

I have a long-standing interest in interdisciplinary science education, especially at the interface between life and physical sciences. Since I joined Wellesley College, my main focus has been to develop both the single (CHEM 222) and two-semester biochemistry (CHEM 221/328) courses to incorporate student-centered, active learning modules. Under the Biology Scholars Research Residency Program in which I was selected to participate in 2008, I have initiated a study to investigate the relative importance of competency in informal logic versus prior biology/chemistry knowledge in student achievement in an introductory biochemistry course. In 2009, I participated in the preparation of the report by AAAS: Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A View for the 21st Century Initiative . At the introductory level, I teach Chemical Analysis and Equilibrium, the second semester introductory course. This year I am also very excited to offer a new upper-level seminar course titled From the Kitchen to the Spa: The Chemistry Behind Food Preparations and Beauty Formulations.

What I cherish most in my professional life are the ample opportunities to work collaboratively with a number of excellent researchers across multiple disciplines. I also enjoy being an integral part of the science education community and specifically the biology scholars program, where I had the opportunity to meet and interact with some truly amazing educators. I have reviewed several papers for different scientific and education journals, grants for different national and international agencies, edited chapters of a biophysical chemistry textbook, participated in the preparation of the AAAS report, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call for Action, and given talks at different institutions.

I enjoy reading, swimming, biking, traveling, and spending time with my family, especially my young son, who never ceases to astonish me with his innate curiosity that leads to endless questions. During the summers when we can escape to visit extended family in Turkey, we try to arrange a getaway along the beautiful Aegean or Mediterranean coast and enjoy the pristine waters and the delicious cuisine.

For more information please visit  www.dvardarulu.com


Useful Links

Vision and Change report