Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Olin-Rice Science Center, 310
About the Witus Lab
Proteins are nature’s molecular machines, carrying out nearly all the functions in the cell. Using proteins outside of their natural context is regarded as a powerful way to harness their unique capabilities to solve unmet challenges in therapeutics, catalysis and environmental remediation. However, proteins have limited stability and are difficult to synthesize in the laboratory. To address these issues, chemists are interested in designing and synthesizing protein-mimetic analogues that have similar properties. Such protein-mimetics can expand on the functions found in biological proteins by including non-natural side chains in order to access a wider structural diversity than is found in nature. The Witus lab engages students to synthesize and characterize novel synthetic protein-mimetic materials. The lab is currently focused on two main avenues towards the goal of creating protein-mimetic materials: mimicking the function of proteins by identifying minimal peptides with catalytic abilities and mimicking the structure of proteins by developing a synthetic route to new peptidomimetic structures.