David M. ’70 and Linda Roth Professor of Chemistry


  • Ph.D. Iowa State University (2007)
  • B.S., Iowa State University (2004)

My Love for Teaching

I have immensely enjoyed my time as a faculty member of the Chemistry Department at Lafayette. I love being in the classroom with students and always try to create a warm and inclusive classroom environment in which students feel both challenged and empowered. Teaching at a liberal arts college was a dream of mine for many years, and I now get to teach my favorite subjects: general chemistry, biochemistry, and a First-Year Seminar course on misinformation in the life sciences.

In the classroom, I think of myself as a coach. I strive to make my teaching student-centered, and I think that students’ engagement in their own learning is critical. To engage students, the use of interactive demonstrations to illustrate major points or communicate difficult concepts in innovative ways is a motif in my classes. I still feel that most learning happens outside of the classroom, and so I try to instill in my students a sense of ownership of their learning experience, knowing that this is more likely to foster real understanding rather than temporary recollection. 

Finally, students want and need to know that scientific knowledge is relevant to their lives and constantly changing. I have found that students greatly appreciate real-world examples, when it is possible to provide them, and these examples help strengthen the cognitive connections students make in constructing their knowledge. For future scientists, the practice of brainstorming the relevance of work in the real world is excellent training.  

I believe teaching and research are symbiotic entities; the proper practice of one serves to nourish the other. I try to bring my research to life in my classes using personal anecdotes, sharing lab stories and news articles, or even posing unsolved questions to the students. I wrote and published an in-class case study centered on prions, a subject of my own laboratory research. I have since written 12 additional case studies for use in biochemistry courses and recorded a six-part COVID-19 podcast series with Prof. Jeremy Berg, published by Macmillan Learning. My current work is writing biochemistry textbooks. I thoroughly enjoy developing and implementing educational materials that provide opportunities for active learning and provide students with perspective on the nature of scientific inquiry.

My Research Interests

My research focuses on understanding the function of molecular chaperones (proteins that help other proteins to become and stay correctly folded) and yeast prions (proteins that aggregate and become infectious). 

All living organisms are primarily made of proteins. Proteins act very much like machines and must adopt a specific shape in order to function correctly, much like the pieces of my car must be in their specific positions, rather than pile, in order for the machine to function. Ensuring that proteins reach and remain in this structure, called properly ‘folded,’ is a fundamental biochemical problem of all living cells. Numerous neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prion diseases, are associated with the misfolding of a protein into a specific alternative shape called ‘amyloid,’ forming what are known as amyloid protein aggregates. The long-term goal of my laboratory work is to decipher the complex biochemical behavior of amyloid protein aggregates from the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, known as ‘yeast prions,’ and the group of proteins which work to prevent or reverse protein misfolding, called molecular chaperones.

I also conduct education research, collaborate on research with Prof. Michael Butler in the Biology Department, and am an author of the 10th edition of the Stryer Biochemistry textbook.

Why Lafayette?

I was most attracted to Lafayette because of the commitment to quality teaching, which included a strong emphasis on undergraduate research. I have found my interactions with our exceptionally talented and hard-working students to be the most fulfilling, both in my courses and in my research laboratory.

Awards and Honors

  • R15 Research grant, National Institutes of Health (2021)
  • Distinguished Young Alumni Award, Iowa State University (2020)
  • Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation (2018)
  • R15 Research grant, National Institutes of Health (2017)
  • Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award, Lafayette College (2017)
  • Cottrell Scholar Award, Research Corporation for Science Advancement (2015)
  • R15 Research grant, National Institutes of Health (2014)
  • Cottrell College Science Award, Research Corporation for Science Advancement (2012)
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (Post-doctoral fellowship), National Institutes of Health (2008)
  • University Award for Teaching Excellence, Iowa State University (2007)
  • Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award, Iowa State University (2005)

Selected Publications (OR, Exhibits, Screenings, etc.)



JOURNAL ARTICLES (Lafayette undergraduate co-authors underlined):