Michael J. Therien

Image of Michael J. Therien

William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

Our research involves the synthesis of compounds, supramolecular assemblies, nano-scale objects, and electronic materials with unusual ground-and excited-state characteristics, and interrogating these structures using state-of-the-art transient optical, spectroscopic, photophysical, and electrochemical methods. Over chemical dimensions that span molecules to materials, we probe experimental and theoretical aspects of charge migration reactions and ultrafast electron transfer processes. Insights into the structure-property relationships of molecular, nanoscale, and macroscopic materials allow us to fabricate polarizable and hyperpolarizable chromophores, structures for molecular electronics applications, optical limiters, and a wide range of other electrooptic and photonic materials that include novel conducting polymers, structures for solar energy conversion, and new platforms for in vivo optical imaging. Other efforts in our laboratory involve the elaborating de novo electron- and energy-transfer proteins, interrogating catalytic redox reactions, designing catalysts for small molecule activation, and developing new tools to manipulate nanoscale structures.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
  • Professor of Chemistry
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information:

  • Office Location: 5330 French Family Science Cen, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-1670
  • Email Address: michael.therien@duke.edu
  • Web Pages:


  • Ph.D. University of California at San Diego, 1987
  • B.S. University of St. Andrews (Scotland), 1982

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions:

  • Fellow. Flemish Academy of Arts and Sciences . 2009
  • International Francqui Chair. Belgium . 2008
  • Fellow. American Association for the Advancement of Science . 2005
  • American Chemical Society Philadelphia Section Award . American Chemical Society . 2004
  • Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines Young Investigator Award . Society of Porphyrins & Phthalocyanines . 2002
  • Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar . Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.. 1997
  • E. I. duPont de Nemours Young Faculty Award . DuPont. 1995
  • Sloan Research Fellowship-Chemistry. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 1995
  • National Science Foundation Young Investigator . National Science Foundation . 1993
  • Beckman Young Investigators (BYI). Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. 1992
  • Scholars. Searle Scholars. 1991

Courses Taught:

  • CHEM 393: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 394: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 493: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 494: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 521: Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHEM 524: Bioinorganic Chemistry
  • CHEM 990-2: Special Topics in Inorganic Chemistry

Representative Publications:

  • Mimun, LC; Ajithkumar, G; Rightsell, C; Langloss, BW; Therien, MJ; Sardar, DK, Synthesis and characterization of Na(Gd0.5Lu0.5)F4: Nd3+,a core-shell free multifunctional contrast agent, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, vol 695 (2017), pp. 280-285 [10.1016/j.jallcom.2016.10.202] [abs].
  • Nayak, A; Park, J; De Mey, K; Hu, X; Duncan, TV; Beratan, DN; Clays, K; Therien, MJ, Large Hyperpolarizabilities at Telecommunication-Relevant Wavelengths in Donor-Acceptor-Donor Nonlinear Optical Chromophores., ACS Central Science, vol 2 no. 12 (2016), pp. 954-966 [10.1021/acscentsci.6b00291] [abs].
  • Polizzi, NF; Therien, MJ; Beratan, DN, Mean First-Passage Times in Biology, Israel Journal of Chemistry, vol 56 no. 9-10 (2016), pp. 816-824 [10.1002/ijch.201600040] [abs].
  • Depotter, G; Olivier, J-H; Glesner, MG; Deria, P; Bai, Y; Bullard, G; Kumbhar, AS; Therien, MJ; Clays, K, First-order hyperpolarizabilities of chiral, polymer-wrapped single-walled carbon nanotubes., Chemical Communications, vol 52 no. 82 (2016), pp. 12206-12209 [abs].
  • Chino, JP; Belley, MD; Chang, Z; Langloss, B; Yoshizumi, TT; Therien, MJ; Craciunescu, OI, Real Time Dosimetry for Gynecologic Brachytherapy: Initial Results of a Prospective Clinical Trial (vol 93, pg S203, 2015), International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, vol 95 no. 2 (2016), pp. 858-859 [abs].