Christopher Chang

2015 National Award Winner — Faculty

Christopher Chang

Current Position:
Class of 1942 Chair Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology; HHMI Investigator

University of California, Berkeley

Inorganic & Solid-State Chemistry

Recognized for: His work at the frontiers of metallo-neurochemistry and sustainable energy research

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Metals in biology, neuroscience, molecular imaging, sustainable energy, catalysis



PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BS / MS, California Institute of Technology

Christopher Chang’s research focuses on the study of metals for biological and energy applications, with particular interest in neuroscience and solar-to-chemical conversion. His group has developed molecular imaging tools to enable identification of copper as a new element for modulating neural circuitry as well as an essential role for hydrogen peroxide to promote proper neural stem cell growth and neurogenesis.

The discovery of copper as a bonafide cell signal offers a new paradigm for metals in biology, expanding the roles of redox transition metals beyond metabolism. His group's leading work in catalysis has shown that simple molecular mimics of complex enzymes and materials can be used to create new classes of catalysts for solar energy conversion that feature cheap, earth-abundant elements and operate under environmentally friendly conditions. Dr. Chang is now pushing the boundaries of catalysis through an approach he terms "materials biology", integrating biocompatible nanomaterials and living cells to perform the sustainable solar synthesis of fuels, materials, and pharmaceuticals.

“As an inorganic chemist, I believe that the periodic table represents a chemical roadmap, a blueprint for the elements of life and the environment around us. We seek to use that roadmap to help image and understand new roles for elements in biology, particularly in the brain, and use and push our fundamental understanding of the elements to develop chemistry of societal benefit, such as technologies for sustainable energy.”

Key Publications:

  1. Dickinson, B. C., Peltier, J., Stone, D., Schaffer, D. V., Chang, C. J. Nox2 redox signaling maintains essential cell populations in the brain. Nat. Chem. Biol. 2011
  2. Karunadasa, H. I.; Montalvo, E.; Sun, Y.; Majda, M.; Long, J. R.; Chang, C. J. A Molecular MoS2 Edge Site Mimic for Catalytic Hydrogen Generation. Science. 2012
  3. Dodani, S. C.; Firl, A.; Chan, J.; Nam, C. I.; Aron, A. T.; Onak, C. S.; Ramos-Torres, K. M.; Paek, J.; Webster, C. W.; Feller, M. B.; Chang, C. J. Copper is an endogenous modulator of neural circuit spontaneous activity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2014

Other Honors:

2004Dreyfus New Faculty Award
2005Beckman Young Investigator Award
2005American Federation for Aging Research Award
2006NSF CAREER Award
2006Packard Fellowship
2007Sloan Fellowship
2008Saltman Award, Metals in Biology GRC
2008Amgen Young Investigator Award
2008Bau Award in Inorganic Chemistry
2008Technology Review TR35 Young Innovator Award
2008Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
2009Astra Zeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award
2009Novartis Early Career Award
2010ACS Cope Scholar Award
2011SBIC Early Career Award
2011Wilson Prize, Harvard University
2012ACS Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry
2012RSC Award in Transition Metal Chemistry
2013ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award in Graduate Education
2013Baekeland Award, ACS New Jersey Section


In the Media:

Interest in complexity drives winning scientist. ChinaDaily USA. July 6, 2015
University of California professors sweep young scientist awards. June 30, 2015
Artificial Photosynthesis Advance Hailed As Major Breakthrough.  Huffington Post. April 20, 2015
Copper on the Brain at Rest. Berkeley Lab. November 26, 2014
Of Metal Heads and Imaging. Berkeley Lab. August 15, 2014
Innovators Under 35. MIT Tech Review. 2013
Breakthrough in designing cheaper, more efficient catalysts for fuel cells. UC Berkeley News Center. February 9, 2012As engineers of the molecular world, chemists are making their mark in biology. HHMI Bulletin . November 2011