Department of Chemistry
A headshot

Karen Wooley
Distinguished Professor
Presidential Impact Fellow
W.T. Doherty-Welch Foundation Chair
Professor of Chemical Engineering
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Director, TAMU Laboratory for Synthetic-Biologic Interactions
TIPS ETF Research Superiority Researcher

Other Affiliations
Chemical Engineering
Materials Science & Engineering

Department of Chemistry
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-3255

P: 979-845-4077
F: 979-862-1137
Researcher ID

Current Activities

Our research activities combine organic syntheses, polymerization strategies and polymer modification reactions in creative ways to afford unique macromolecular structures, which have been designed as functional nanostructures, polymer systems having unique macromolecular architectures, and/or degradable polymers. The emphasis is upon the incorporation of functions and functionalities into selective regions of polymer frameworks. In some cases, the function is added at the small molecule, monomer, stage, prior to polymerization, whereas, in other cases, chemical modifications are performed upon polymers or at the nanostructure level; each requires a strategic balance of chemical reactivity and the ultimate composition and structure.

Fundamental and applied studies are leading toward the incorporation of various functions into polymer materials, including biological activity, imaging capabilities, drug or gene delivery performance, toxin sequestration, photo- or electroactivity, triggered destruction, chemical reactivity, anti-biofouling characteristics, among others. Covalent and non-covalent interactions are employed in the development of new synthetic methodologies for the construction of the materials. Rigorous physicochemical characterization and in vitro and in vivo biological evaluations are performed. Therefore, students gain broad experience and achieve expertise across disciplines, with a foundation based upon organic chemistry, and extensions into analytical, physical and biological chemistries and engineering. Current projects aim to: 1) develop polymer coatings and nanostructures that exhibit minimized non-specific biological interactions and maximized specific biological interactions to achieve non-toxic anti-biofouling performance, tissue-selective targeting, tissue engineering, etc.; 2) expand the types of discrete nanoscale objects that can be produced from the supramolecular assembly of programmed block copolymers and/or from the intramolecular assembly of sophisticated macromolecular architectures; 3) advance polymerization chemistries to achieve selective polymerization of multi-functional monomers; 4) incorporate function into degradable polymers and degradable units regioselectively into nanostructures; 5) design materials as hosts for the controlled packaging, transport and release of diagnostic and therapeutic agents; 6) engineer complex materials as highly sensitive and multi-modal Imaging agents; 7) develop synthetic methodologies to control the size, shape, and composition of nanostructures and investigate their hierarchicalassemblies.

Educational Background

B. S., 1988, Oregon State University

Ph.D., 1993, Cornell University

Awards & Recognition

  • SEC Professor of the Year, Southeastern Conference on behalf of Texas A&M University, 2021
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences (NAS), 2020 - present
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2020 - present
  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2020 - present
  • Fellow, National Academy of Inventors (NAI), 2019 - present
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AMACAD), 2015-present
  • Oesper Award, University of Cincinnati Department of Chemistry, 2015
  • Honorary Fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society, 2014-present
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, 2014-present
  • Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize, 2014
  • American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry, 2014
  • Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor, 2011-present
  • American Chemical Society, Polymer Chemistry Division, Herman F. Mark Scholar Award, 2009
  • Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in Organic Chemistry, 2002

Selected Publications

  • Tran, D. K.; Rashad, A. Z.; Darensbourg, D. J.; Wooley, K. L. "Sustainable Synthesis of CO2-derived Polycarbonates from d-Xylose", Polym. Chem., 2021, 12, 5271-5278, DOI:  10.1039/D1PY00784J. 
  • Song, Y.; Elsabahy, M.; Collins, C. A.; Khan, S.; Li, R.; Hreha, T. N.; Shen, Y.; Lin, Y.-N.; Letteri, R. A.; Su, L.; Dong, M.; Zhang, F.; Hunstad, D. A.; Wooley, K. L. "Morphologic Design of Silver-Bearing Sugar-Based Polymer Nanoparticles for Uroepithelial Cell Binding and Antimicrobial Delivery", Nano Lett., 2021, 21(12), 4990-4998, DOI:  10.1021/acs.nanolett.1c00776.
  • Nguyen, T. P.; Easley, A. D.; Kang, N.; Khan, S.; Lim, S.-M.; Rezenom, Y. H.; Wang, S.; Tran, D. K.; Fan, J.; Letteri, R. A.; He, X.; Su, L.; Yu, C.-H.; Lutkenhaus, J. L.; Wooley, K. L. "Polypeptide Organic Radical Batteries", Nature, 2021, 593, 61-66, DOI:  10.1038/s41586-021-03399-1.
  • Song, Y.; Yang, X.; Shen, Y.; Dong, M.; Lin, Y.-N.; Hall, M. B.; Wooley, K. L. "Invoking side-chain functionality for the mediation of regioselectivity during ring-opening polymerization of glucose carbonates", J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2020, 142(40), 16974-16981, DOI:  10.1021/jacs.0c05610.
  • Lin, Y.-N.; Khan, S.; Song, Y.; Dong, M.; Shen, Y.; Tran, D. K.; Pang, C.; Zhang, F.; Wooley, K. L. "A Tale of Drug-Carrier Optimization:  Controlling stimuli sensitivity via nanoparticle hydrophobicity through drug loading", Nano Lett., 2020, 20(9), 6563-6571, DOI:  10.1021/acs.nanolett.0c02319.