- Bachelor of Arts, Amherst College, 1997
- Doctor of Philosophy, California Institute of Technology, 2002
Research Interests: Melanins, bioorganic chemistry, chemical biology, supramolecular chemistry.
Melanins, the pigments in human hair, skin, eyes––and even the brain!––are not very well understood on a chemical level, but they have many fascinating chemical properties that contribute to their biological roles, diseases such as skin cancer, and can be developed for non-biological applications.
We are particularly interested in the molecular recognition properties of melanins. Our lab uses a combination of organic synthesis, biochemical, environmental and materials chemistry approaches to study melanin self-assembly and interactions with other molecules. This work is supported by a recent grant from the National Science Foundation, entitled “Bioorganic Chemistry of Eumelanin.”
One application that we are pursuing is water purification, which takes advantage of the ability of melanin from natural sources and synthetic analogs to bind to heavy metals and organic pollutants. In a related project, we are investigating melanin-inspired coatings as colorimetric sensors for metal ions.
Dr. Belitsky is the Program Director of Oberlin’s new quantitative skills center, the Center for Learning, Education, and Research in the Sciences (CLEAR).
Recent Sabbaticals: University of Michigan (2011-2012)
Teaches: Bioorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, General Chemistry, Chemical Biology seminar
- Belitsky, J.M. "Aryl boronic acid inhibition of synthetic melanin polymerization" Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2010, 20, 4475-4478.
- Sono, K.*; Lye, D.*; Moore, C.A.*; Boyd, W.C.*; Gorlin, T.A.*; Belitsky, J.M. “Melanin-based coatings as lead-binding agents” Bioinorganic Chemistry and Applications 2012, Article ID 361803.
- Belitsky, J.M.; Ellowitz, M.Z.*; Lye, D.*; Kilbo, A.L.* “Small molecule modulators of aggregation in synthetic melanin polymerizations” Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2012, 22, 5503-5507
- Belitsky, J.M.; Lye, D.S.*; Gittleman, H.R.*; Gorlin, T.A.*; Gorham, A.N.*; Moore, C.A.*; Chaves, M.B.*; Ellowitz, M.Z.* “Colorimetric metal ion binding of catechol-based coatings inspired by melanin and molecular imprinting” Supramolecular Chemistry, 2014, 26, 233-244.