Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions: Jeff Chan

Jeff ChanJeff Chan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He studies photoacoustic imaging in cancer imaging and targeted drug delivery.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

It wasn’t until I began undergraduate research during college that I wanted to become a chemist. You know you are destined to become a chemist when you prefer to spend long hours in the lab instead of going out with friends or even sleeping.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I would probably be in marketing or working in commerce as an investment banker. I think I would enjoy being able to sell an idea or a product to people. However, my only criteria is it has to be something I believe in.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

My lab is currently developing analyte-selective probes for photoacoustic imaging. This technology utilizes tissue-penetrating light to optically excite molecules, either those naturally found in the body or chemicals delivered exogenously. A portion of the absorbed energy is released as heat through non-radiative relaxation pathways. The local temperature rapidly increases, resulting in a corresponding pressure change that propagates through the tissue as ultrasonic waves which can be detected and converted into high-resolution images. We hope our work will augment the ability of investigators to non-invasively study complex biological processes in vivo.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

I have recently been watching Marco Polo on Netflix, so that would definitely have to be Kublai Khan. He was able to lead an entire empire with wisdom rather than with brutality. I would love to get some advice from him over dinner to help me more effectively run my lab.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

I’m actually in the lab quite often. The last experiment I did was last evening when I helped an undergrad student in my lab with a recrystallization in order to purify a compound he had synthesized.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

If I was on a desert island I would prefer to have a pen and lots of paper so I could write my own book instead. As for a music album? Ironically, I like to play “nature sounds” when I write because I find that it doesn’t distract my thoughts.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

I would love to see an interview from my colleague Prof. Scott Denmark. He’s such an amazing chemist who knows a lot about everything!


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