Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Chemistry
Feng Gai works at the intersection of physical chemistry and biology, investigating protein-folding problems, which are thought to be instrumental in understanding diseases associated with malfunctioning enzymes. Using novel methods of laser and infrared spectroscopy, Gai and his lab are advancing knowledge about how proteins fold from random or quasi-random coils to their biologically functional formations, particularly over very short time-scales (i.e., nano- and microseconds). To date the Feng Gai Lab has made significant contributions to the understanding of the folding dynamics and mechanisms of α-helices and β-hairpins, the process of membrane-mediated α-helix folding, and helix-helix interactions and the role of backbone hydrogen bonds in protein folding kinetics. In addition, Gai and his co-workers have developed several infrared and fluorescence probes that can be used to study pro-Feng Gaitein dynamics and function with site-specific resolution.
Gai has developed and taught courses ranging from an introductory lab course for freshmen to advanced bio-molecular imaging techniques. He also directs the University’s Ultrafast Optical Processes Laboratory. His work has been recognized through many prestigious awards and distinctions, including a Research Innovation Award from the Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the American Chemical Society’s Philadelphia Section Award, and the Iowa State University Chemistry Department Alumni Excellence Award. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.