Jefferson Kar Fai Chan

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Personal profile

Personal profile

Professor Chan received his BSc in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia in 2006 and his PhD from Simon Fraser University in 2011 with Prof. Andrew Bennet. For his graduate work, he was recognized with the Boehringer Ingelheim Doctoral Research Award for the top Canadian thesis in the areas of organic and bioorganic chemistry. From 2011 to 2014 he was a Human Frontiers Science Program Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley with Prof. Christopher Chang. He began his independent career at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2014 and is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry.

Research Interests

1) complex molecule synthesis; 2) chemical biology; 3) analyte-responsive imaging agents; 4) drug delivery platforms

Professional Information

Photoacoustic Imaging

Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is a powerful imaging modality that is based on the detection of sound waves generated by an optically excited chromophore. Due to the low scattering of sound in biological tissues, this state-of-the-art approach is ideal for non-invasive, deep-tissue bioimaging of live animals and human organs. Our group is currently developing bioorthoganol chemical probes for the early diagnosis of cancer. Moreover, we are applying these chemical tools to study tumor progression and metastasis in vivo.

Infectious Diseases

Tuberculosis (TB) is a widespread infectious disease caused by M. tuberculosis and is responsible for nearly two million deaths each year. Unfortunately, existing drugs are becoming obsolete owing to non-compliance which has led to the emergence of multiple and extensively drug-resistance strains. Drawing from our expertise in organic synthesis and mechanistic enzymology, we are currently developing new small-molecule inhibitors that target crucial TB-specific enzymatic activities to study and treat TB infections.

Neurological Disorders

Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) are characterized by a decline in cognitive abilities that result from neuronal cell death. It is believed that hypoxia, oxidative stress, metal ion signaling, and neurotransmission all play a role in the neuropathology of AD; however, their interplay is inadequately studied, especially in the context of in vivo biological systems. Our group is currently developing chemical and protein-based probes to discover the mechanisms underlying this medical condition.

Honors & Awards

2021   Helen Corley Petit Scholar
2021   Teachers Ranked as Excellent
2020   Teachers Ranked as Excellent
2019   Beckman Fellow Award
2018   Thieme Chemistry Journal Award
2018   Center for Advanced Study Fellowship
2018   NSF CAREER Award
2018   Research Corporation Scialog Fellow
2017   Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship
2013 Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Doctoral Research Award
2012 Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal
2012 Human Frontier Science Program Postdoctoral Fellowship
2010 Faculty of Science Excellence in Teaching Award
2010 Bruker Prize in Chemical Spectroscopy
2009 Varian Canada Inc. Award
2008   Barbara Ferrier Chemistry Research Award 
2006   Creo Achievement Award in Chemistry

Office Address

Department of Chemistry
University of Illinois
268 RAL, Box 55-5
600 South Mathews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone


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