B.A., Grinnell College; Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Donald E. ElmoreMichael and Denise Kellen '68 Chair in the Sciences; Professor of Chemistry
Uses experiments and computation to study membrane proteins; teaches biochemistry, introductory chemistry and courses in computational modeling and public writing.
My lab investigates proteins associated with the cell membrane with a focus on protein•lipid interactions. Our primary project concerns histone-derived antimicrobial peptides (HDAPs). While many HDAPs have been isolated from natural sources, relatively little is known about their mode of action on the molecular level. We use molecular dynamics simulations and a variety of experimental methods to investigate the structure-function relationships of these peptides and design novel HDAPs. Recently, this work has involved significant collaboration with Louise Darling (Biological Sciences) in developing improved methods for visualizing peptide activity using confocal microscopy. More recently, I became involved in a collaborative project led by Mala Radhakrishnan (Chemistry) considering how macromolecular crowding affects the interactions between biological molecules. Our work on this project has focused on developing computational crowding models and testing those models experimentally. At Wellesley I have also been involved in projects considering the structure-function relationships of bacterial ion channels, including the discovery of the bacterial cyclic nucleotide gated ion channel family with Joshua Maurer (Benét Laboratories). One of the best parts of my position at Wellesley is the ability to collaborate with talented undergraduates, and since arriving at Wellesley in 2004 I have mentored over 65 research students in my lab. These students have made central contributions to my research, and many of them are co-authors on journal articles. Several students from Framingham High School have also worked in my lab through the summer research program. My research work has been funded by external awards from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and Research Corporation, and I was selected as a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar in 2011.
I primarily teach courses in biochemistry and introductory chemistry at Wellesley. In these courses, I place a particular emphasis on fostering student group work and increasing student exposure to research methods and data analysis. One particular interest of mine is incorporating computational modeling methods throughout the curriculum, and I introduced a course in computational chemistry that is now part of the department's regular offerings. An article describing some of the computational activities used in my courses was published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education (BAMBEd). I also coordinated a special section of BAMBED focusing on the use of molecular dynamics and related methods in the classroom in 2016. More recently, I also developed a course, Advances in Chemical Biology, for the college's Calderwood Program in Public Writing. It was a very pleasant surprise to receive the Pinanski Prize in Teaching from the college in 2009.
Currently, I am serving on the college Committee for Faculty Appointments and as the Director of Wellesley's Biochemistry Program. In recent years, I also have been involved with the Wellesley community through serving on the Faculty Benefits Committee (chair 14-15), the Agenda Committee (co-chair 11-12), and the Trustee Committee for Academic Affairs. I currently serve on the Editorial Board of BAMBEd and regularly review journal articles and grant proposals for a variety of domestic and international organizations.
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Julia Prentice, the Director of Research and Analytics for the Betsy Lehman Center for patient safety, and our two wonderful (in my clearly objective opinion) children. I also serve as Vice-President of the Board fo Directors for the Dedham Community House, an organization focused on providing educational, recreational and social activities for residents of Dedham and surrounding communities. Whenever possible, I love to catch live music, with a particular affinity for jazz, classic R&B and classical. Since coming to Wellesley, I have worked to overcome some of the main disadvantages of moving from LA: I confront the unfavorable winter weather by getting outside as much as possible in the admittedly beautiful New England summers, and I stay up a bit late to catch Dodgers games on the West Coast.
For more information on my research, please visit the Elmore Lab website.