Adele Wolfson

Nan Walsh Schow ‘54 and Howard B. Schow Professor Emerita in the Physical and Natural Sciences & Professor Emerita of Chemistry

Biochemistry research on hormone regulation of enzymes; educational research on core concepts in biochemistry, retention of women and minorities in science.

My scientific research is in the area of protein biochemistry. For the past several years, I have focused on proteases and peptidases, i.e., enzymes which degrade other proteins, and inhibitors for those enzymes. Current projects focus on the enzyme thimet oligopeptidase (TOP), which terminates the signal of bioactive peptides. We are particularly interested in how the enzyme is able to recognize and act on such a wide variety of substrates. We have investigated the control of the enzyme in brain, especially in response to steroid hormones, in collaboration with Marc Tetel in the Neuroscience Program at Wellesley. Our most recent projects involve the role of neuropeptidases in prostate cancer cells.

I also do educational research. One current project focuses on concept inventories in biochemistry, and the second - in collaboration with Lee Cuba of the Sociology Department - uses longitudinal data from students at selective liberal arts colleges to understand how students connect learning in science and non-science courses.

I have taught every biochemistry course at Wellesley, in addition to introductory chemistry, writing, and a course on women in science. I designed and co-taught a "mini-cluster" of introductory chemistry and introductory biology, and continue to be interested in new approaches to introductory science courses.

My major professional association is through the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; I authored a report for the Society on Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Liberal Education, funded by the Teagle Foundation. I have been a workshop leader and consultant for Project Kaleidoscope and for AAC&U, a member of the editorial board of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, and on the advisory boards of an ADVANCE program, POGIL Biochemistry project, and the Biology Scholars Writing Project, among others. In 2013 I was elected a AAAS Fellow for my contributions to undergraduate biochemistry and molecular biology education and increasing participation of underrepresented groups.

Away from work, I like to read (including as a subject specialist recording for the blind and dyslexic), folk dance, do crossword puzzles, hike, and "chase" eclipses.


  • B.A., Brandeis University
  • Ph.D., Columbia University