Michael J. Therien

Michael J. Therien

William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Our research involves the synthesis of compounds, supermolecular 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. Research activities span physical inorganic chemistry, physical organic chemistry, synthetic chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, spectroscopy, photophysics, excited-state dynamics, spintronics, and imaging. My laboratory: (i) designs chromophores and supermolecules that display exceptional opto-electronic properties and elucidates their excited-state dynamics, (ii) engineers highly conjugated molecular structures for optical limiting, specialized emission, and high charge mobility, (iii) designs conjugated materials and hybrid molecular-nanoscale structures for energy conversion reactions, (iv) develops molecular wires that propagate spin-polarized currents, (v) fabricates emissive nanoscale structures for in vivo optical imaging, (vi) engineers de novo transition metal cofactor-binding proteins that test light-driven biological energy transducing mechanisms and realize opto-electronic functionalities not found in nature, and (vii) designs and interrogates complex molecular and nanoscale assemblies in which ultrafast energy and charge migration reactions are controlled by quantum coherence effects.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
  • Professor of Chemistry
  • 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: +1 919 660 1670
  • Email Address: michael.therien@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • California Institute of Technology, 1990
  • Ph.D. University of California, San Diego, 1987
  • B.S. University of St. Andrews (United Kingdom), 1982

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fulbright Distinguished Scholar. U.S. Department of State. 2024
  • Inter-American Photochemical Society Award in Photochemistry . I-APS. 2024
  • Florida Award . American Chemical Society. 2023
  • R. B. Woodward Career Award in Porphyrin Chemistry . Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines. 2022
  • Fellow. Royal Society of Chemistry . 2021
  • Fellow. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2020
  • 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
  • Sloan Research Fellowship-Chemistry. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 1995
  • E. I. duPont de Nemours Young Faculty Award . DuPont. 1995
  • National Science Foundation Young Investigator . National Science Foundation. 1993
  • Beckman Young Investigators. Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. 1992
  • Searle Scholar. Searle Scholars Program. 1991

Courses Taught

  • CHEM 590: Special Topics in Chemistry
  • CHEM 521: Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHEM 494: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 493: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 410: Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHEM 394: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 393: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Wang, R; Ko, C-H; Brugh, AM; Bai, Y; Forbes, MDE; Therien, MJ, Topology, Distance, and Orbital Symmetry Effects on Electronic Spin-Spin Couplings in Rigid Molecular Systems: Implications for Long-Distance Spin-Spin Interactions., The journal of physical chemistry. A, vol 124 no. 37 (2020), pp. 7411-7415 [10.1021/acs.jpca.0c06112] [abs].
  • Viere, EJ; Qi, W; Stanton, IN; Zhang, P; Therien, MJ, Driving high quantum yield NIR emission through proquinoidal linkage motifs in conjugated supermolecular arrays., Chemical science, vol 11 no. 31 (2020), pp. 8095-8104 [10.1039/d0sc03446k] [abs].
  • Jiang, T; Bai, Y; Zhang, P; Han, Q; Mitzi, DB; Therien, MJ, Electronic structure and photophysics of a supermolecular iron complex having a long MLCT-state lifetime and panchromatic absorption., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 117 no. 34 (2020), pp. 20430-20437 [10.1073/pnas.2009996117] [abs].