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Ted Lee Jr.

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Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science


  • Doctoral Degree, Chemical Engineering, University of Texas - Austin
  • Master's Degree, Chemical Engineering, Clemson University
  • Bachelor's Degree, Chemical Engineering, Clemson University


Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, Texas, Austin
M.S., Chemical Engineering, Clemson University, 1996
B.S., Chemical Engineering, Clemson University, 1994

Research Summary

The photocontrolled binding of light-sensitive surfactants onto proteins is being investigated as a means to control protein folding with light irradiation. These photosensitive surfactants undergo a reversible photoisomerization upon exposure to the appropriate wavelength of light, with the visible-light form of the surfactant being more hydrophobic than the UV-light form. As a consequence, the visible-light form exhibits enhanced binding to the hydrophobic domains of the protein compared to the UV-light form of the surfactant. Light scattering and small-angle neutron scattering have recently revealed that this light-directed (i.e., reversible) surfactant binding causes bovine serum albumin (BSA) to unfold, with an increase in the protein elongation in solution from 90 to 250. The more hydrophobic trans form of the surfactant causes a greater degree of protein unfolding than the cis form, therefore providing for a means to reversibly control protein folding with light. This ability to induce changes in protein structure with simple light exposure could have profound ramifications in drug discovery, where specific drug forms exhibit enhanced activity. Furthermore, the completion of the human genome project immediately gives rise to the human proteome project, where rapid characterization of the large number of proteins that result from specific genetic sequences could be aided through photocontrolled protein crystallization. All told, this project could provide insight and novel treatments for ailments that occur because of incorrect protein folding (e.g., Alzheimer's and mad cow diseases), while extension of this phenomenon to other biological entities (e.g., DNA) may one day produce anti-cancer remedies via light-induced gene transfection.


  • 2009 Chemical Engineering “Teacher of the Year”
  • 2008 Chemical Engineering “Teacher of the Year”
  • 2008 Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award

  • HED 207
  • Hedco Pertroleum and Chemical Engineering Building
  • 925 Bloom Walk, Los Angeles, CA 90089
  • USC Mail Code: 1211

Contact Information
  • (213) 740-2066
  • tedlee@usc.edu


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