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Sunhee Choi

The John D. McCullough Professor of Chemistry

 work(802) 443-5716
 Spring 2020: Mon/Wed: 10:00AM - 12:00PM, Fri: 10:00 - 11:00AM, and by appointment
 on leave academic year

Professor Sunhee Choi joined the chemistry faculty at Middlebury College in 1987.  She earned her B.S. in Chemistry at Seoul National University and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at Princeton University.  Prior to her arrival at Middlebury, she worked at Colgate-Palmolive Company as a research chemist.  For chemistry and biochemistry majors, she teaches general chemistry, physical chemistry, and instrumentation analysis and physical-inorganic laboratory courses.  She has taught several nonmajors courses entitled "Food chemistry", "Biographies of the Imaginative", "Art and Chemistry", "Color in Science and Culture", "The Many Faces in Science", and "World of Chemistry".

Professor Choi maintains active research program involving undergraduates. They published 11 manuscripts in top chemical journals in the area of the mechanism of platinum (PtIV) and ruthenium (RuIII) anticancer drugs. The work was supported by external-funds including NIH/AREA, and NSF/RUI (total ~$839,000).      

The current research interest of Choi lab lies in the area of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We are searching for the cause of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at the molecular level. Uncovering the mechanism of AD is crucial towards developing an effective treatment for AD. Because the brain of AD patients contains aggregated amyloid-β (Aβ) and transition metal ions localized in plaques, current effort in developing AD drug is to remove aggregated Aβ and/or transition metal ions (copper, iron, and zinc). However, recent (spring, 2017) failure of Lilly’s AD drug targeting removal of aggregated amyloid-β (Aβ) suggests there may be another mechanism to cause AD. Since most of these Aβ plaques contain Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs), we hypothesize that reactions of amino acids in Aβ and sugars (glycation) play important role in causing AD. Our research will give valuable insights into the mechanism of AD at the molecular level. We use UV/vis Spectroscopy, Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography-Electron Spray Ionization- Quadruple Time-of-Flight-Mass Spectroscopy, Circular Dichroism Spectroscopy, and Gel Electrophoresis.

Professor Choi's teaching efforts are described in the Middlebury alumni magazine (1999) and Middlebury Students newspapers in 2004.  In 2005, the Carnegie Foundation named Professor Choi the Vermont Professor of the Year in recognition of her dedication to undergraduate research. 


Vermont Professor of the Year awarded by the Carnegie Foundation, 2005.

Colgate Presidential Award, Colgate-Palmolive Company, 1985.

Best Chemist Award, Seoul National University, 1973.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

CHEM 0101 - World of Chemistry      

World of Chemistry
The goal of this course is to investigate how chemistry impacts our daily lives in both common and extraordinary ways. After learning basic concepts of elements, atoms, and molecules, we will explore topics in energy (petroleum, nuclear, batteries, and solar), environment (global warming and the ozone hole), health (food and drug), and art (color, conservation, and forgery detection). We will perform occasional hands-on activities. SCI

Spring 2019

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CHEM 0103 - General Chemistry I      

General Chemistry I
Major topics will include atomic theory and atomic structure; chemical bonding; stoichiometry; introduction to chemical thermodynamics. States of matter; solutions and nuclear chemistry. Laboratory work deals with testing of theories by various quantitative methods. Students with strong secondary school preparation are encouraged to consult the department chair for permission to elect CHEM 0104 or CHEM 0107 in place of this course. CHEM 0103 is also an appropriate course for a student with little or no prior preparation in chemistry who would like to learn about basic chemical principles while fulfilling the SCI or DED distribution requirement. 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab, 1 hr. disc. DED SCI

Spring 2017, Spring 2020

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CHEM 0107 - Advanced General Chemistry      

Advanced General Chemistry
This course is a one-semester alternative to one year of general chemistry (CHEM 0103 and CHEM 0104). It is open to all students who have received a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement test in Chemistry. Students who have two or more years of high school chemistry without AP credit may enroll with permission of the instructor. Topics will be drawn from the traditional general chemistry curriculum, but discussed in greater detail with a more thorough mathematical treatment. Special emphasis will be placed on chemical bonding, coordination chemistry, and real world research in chemistry. (AP Chemistry or equivalent.) 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab, 1 hr dis. DED SCI

Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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CHEM 0312 - Inorganic & Physical Chemistry      

Inorganic and Physical Chemistry Laboratory
In this course students will carry out experiments in the field of inorganic and physical chemistry and write journal-style reports based on their results. In the first half of the semester students will conduct a multi-step synthesis and characterization of a Mo-Mo complex with a quadruple bond. Students will learn inert atmosphere synthetic techniques and how to use a glove box. The synthesized Mo-Mo complex will be characterized by UV-Vis, IR, 1H and 31P NMR spectroscopies, and cyclic voltammetry. In the second half of the semester students will conduct two physical chemistry experiments. First students will carry out a kinetic study of the isomerization of the Mo-Mo (alpha to beta or beta to alpha) complex by UV-Vis spectroscopy. Finally, students will obtain the high-resolution IR spectra of acetylene and deuterated acetylene and analyze the rotation-vibration spectra using statistical and quantum mechanics to obtain structural data and interpret the peak intensities. In addition to the laboratory activities, there will be lectures on metal quadruple bonds, principles of UV-Vis , IR, 1H and 31P NMR spectroscopies, cyclic voltammetry, and statistical mechanics. (CHEM 0311, CHEM 0351, and CHEM 0355. CHEM 0355 can be taken concurrently.) 3 hrs. lect. 3 hrs. lab

Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

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CHEM 0351 - Quantum Chemistry/Spectroscopy      

Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy
Quantum theory is developed and applied to atomic structure and molecular bonding. Spectroscopy is examined as an application of quantum theory. (CHEM 0204 or CHEM 0241, MATH 0122 and PHYS 0110, or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect.

Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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CHEM 0355 - Thermodynamics and Kinetics      

Thermodynamics and Kinetics for Chemical and Biological Sciences
In this course students will learn the central ideas that frame thermodynamics and kinetics. The application of these ideas to chemical, biological, and the environmental processes will be covered using examples such as refrigerators, heat pumps, fuel cells, bioenergetics, lipid membranes, and catalysts (including enzymes). (PHYS 0109 or PHYS 0110 and MATH 0122 and CHEM 0204) 3 hrs lect., 1 hr disc.

Spring 2018

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CHEM 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study Project
Individual study for qualified students. (Approval required)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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CHEM 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory research on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for CHEM 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a faculty member in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (Approval required; open only to seniors)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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CHEM 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students who have initiated research projects in CHEM 0400 and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for CHEM 0701. Students are required to write a thesis, give a public presentation, and defend their thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. The final grade will be determined by the department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (CHEM 0400; approval required)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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Selected Publications

* Middlebury College student authors are underlined.

Fica-Contreras, S. M.; Shuster, S. O.; Durfee, N. D.; Bowe, G. J. K.; Henning, N. J.; Hill, S. A.; Vrla, G. D.Stillman, D. R.; Suralik, K. M.; Sandwick, R. K.; Choi, S. “Glycation of Lys-16 and Arg-5 in amyloid-b and the presence of Cu2+ play a major role in the oxidative stress mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease” J. Biol. Inorg. Chem. 2017, 22, 1211-1222. DOI: 10.1007/s00775-017-1497-5

Kipouros, I.; Fica-Contreras, S. M.; Bowe, G. J. K.;·Choi, S. "Oxidation of 5'-dGMP, 5'-dGDP, and 5'-dGTP by a Platinum(IV) Complex" J. Biol. Inorg. Chem. 2015, 20, 1327-1341. DOI: 10.1007/s00775-015-1312-0

Wolf, M. W.; Choi, S. "Disproportionation of Pentaammineruthenium(III)-Nucleoside Complexes Leads to Two-Electron Oxidation of Nucleosides without Involving Oxygen Molecules" J. Biol. Inorg. Chem. 2012, 17, 1283-1291, DOI 10.1007/s00775-012-0942-8.

Choi, S.; Ryu, DW; DellaRocca, JG; Wolf, M. W.; Bogart, J. A. "Two Electron Oxidation of Deoxyguanosine by a Ru(III) Complex without Involving Oxygen Molecules through Disproportionation" Inorg. Chem. 2011, 50, 6567-6574.

Choi, S.; Personick M. L.; Bogart, J. A.; Ryu, DW; Redman, R. M.; Laryea-Walker, E. " Oxidation of a Guanine Derivative Coordinated to a Pt(IV) Complex Initiated by Intermolecular Nucleophilic Attacks" Dalton Trans. 2011, 40, 2888-2897.

Choi, S.; Vastag, L.; Larrabee, Y. C.; Personick, M. L.; Schaberg, K. B.; Fowler, B. J.; Sandwick, R. K.; Rawji, G. "The Importance of Pt(II) Catalyzed Pt(IV) Substitution for the Oxidation of Guanosine Derivatives by Pt(IV) Complexes"  Inorg. Chem., 2008, 47, 1352-1360.  Correction: Inorg. Chem., 2008, 47, 3920-3920.

Choi, S.; Vastag, L.; Leung, C. H.; Beard, A. M.; Knowles, D. E., Larrabee, J. A. "Kinetics and Mechanism of Oxidation of Guanosine Derivatives by Platinum(IV) Complexes" Inorg. Chem., 2006, 45, 10108-10114.

Choi, S.; Cooley, R. B.; Voutchkova, A.; Leung, C. H.; Vastag, L.; Knowles, D. E. "Oxidation of Guanosine Derivatives by a Platinum(IV) Complex: Internal Electron Transfer through Cyclization" J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2005, 127, 1773-1781.

Choi, S.; Cooley, R. B.; Hakemian, A. S.; Larrabee, Y. C.; Bunt, R. C.; Maupaus, S. D.; Muller, J. G.; Burrows, C. J. "Mechanism of Two-Electron Oxidation of Deoxyguanosine-5'-Monophosphate by a Platinum(IV) Complex" J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2004, 126, 591-598.          

Choi, S.; Delaney, S.; Orbai, L.; Padgett, E. J.; Hakemian, A. S. "A Platinum(IV) Complex Oxidizes Guanine to 8-Oxo-Guanine in DNA and RNA"  Inorg. Chem., 2001, 40, 5481-5482.

Choi, S.; Mahalingaiah, S.; Delaney, S.; Neale, N. R.; Masood, S. "Substitution and Reduction of Platinum(IV) Complexes by a Nucleotide, Guanosine 5'-Monophosphate (5'-GMP)" Inorg. Chem., 1999, 38, 1800-1805.

Choi, S.; Filotto,C.; Bisanzo, M.; Delaney, S.; Lagasee, D.; Whitworth, J. L.; Jusko, A.; Li, C.; Wood, N. A.; Willingham, J.; Schwenker, A.; Spaulding, K. "Reduction and Anticancer Activity of Platinum(IV) Complexes" Inorg. Chem., 1998, 37, 2500-2504.

Major Research Grants

NSF-RUI (CHE-0848072) 6/2009-5/2012 ($210,000) "Oxidation of Guanosine Derivatives Coordinated to Pt(IV) and Ru(III) Complexes"

NSF-RUI (CHE-0450060) 3/2005-2/2009 ($225,000) "Mechanism and Kinetics of Oxidation of Guanosine Derivatives by Pt(IV) Complexes"

NIH-AREA (1R15 CA82145-01) 7/1999-6/2003 ($101,920) "Mechanistic Study of Pt(IV) Anticancer Complexes"

NIH-AREA (1R15 CA67217-01A1) 6/1996-5/1999 ($122,197) "Mechanistic Study of Pt(IV)           Anticancer Complexes"

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753