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Faculty Profile

Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons

Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
Interdisciplinary with, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Affiliated Faculty, Bioengineering
449 Snell Engineering
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115


My research is in biochemical engineering, specifically the area of metabolic engineering. Metabolic engineering embodies the principles, framework, and methodologies for understanding and manipulating the metabolic pathways in the cell for targeted and improved chemical transformations. My research group and I are applying metabolic engineering principles and methodologies to improve the production of important compounds from plants or plant cell cultures. Our research relies heavily on understanding the complex network of biosynthetic reactions within the cell and the application of tools in analytical chemistry for unveiling the secrets of the cell. The outcome of this research is an understanding of how to rationally direct the resources of the cell (i.e. precursor and energy fluxes) for significant enhancements in the production of the desired chemical compound. Our research is being applied to address:

Focus 1: the production of cost-prohibitive pharmaceutical compounds from cell cultures of plants.
Focus 2: the growing problem of antibiotic resistance using plant-derived compounds to inhibit bacterial defense mechanisms.
Focus 3: the efficient cultivation of plants with high nutritional quality for food, in environments with limited gas exchange such as those found on space stations

My main research focus is the production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus. Plant cell culture is potentially a better route for supplying certain structurally complex drug molecules than chemical synthesis or extraction from whole plants. Moreover, plant cell culture can potentially produce these drug molecules at a faster and more consistent rate than whole plants. The overall vision of my research is to meet the needs and demands of important and cost-prohibitive plant-derived pharmaceuticals using plant cell culture, applying metabolic engineering strategies and ultimately developing an economically viable process using plant cell culture.


  • Ph.D. (Chemical Engineering), Cornell University, Advisor: Prof. Michael L. Shuler
  • B.S. (Chemical Engineering), University of Kansas Summa cum laude

Research & Scholarship Interests

Production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus
Affiliated With

Department Research Areas

College Research Initiatives

Honors & Awards

  • NSF CAREER Award

Selected Publications

  • N. Rizvi, M. Cornejo, K. Stein, J. Weaver, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee- Parsons An Efficient Transformation Method for Estrogen-inducible Transgene Expression in Catharanthus roseus Hairy Roots, Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC), 120(2), 2015, 475-487
  • J. Weaver, S. Goklany, N. Rizvi, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons Optimizing the Transient Fast Agro-mediated Seedling Transformation (FAST) Method in Catharanthus roseus Seedlings, Plant Cell Reports, 33(1), 2014, 89-97
  • S. Goklany, N. Rizvi, R.H. Loring, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons Jasmonate-dependent Alkaloid Biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus is Correlated with the Relative Expression of Orca and Zct Transcription Factors, Biotechnology Progress, 29(6), 2013, 1367-1376
  • N. Rizvi, S. Goklany, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons Rapid Increases of Key Regulators Precede the Increased Production of Pharmaceutically Valuable Compounds in Catharanthus roseus, Pharmaceutical Engineering, 33(6), 2013, 1-8
  • R.M. Gathungu, J.T. Oldham, S.S. Bird, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, P. Vouros, R. Kautz Application of an Integrated LC-UV-MS-NMR Platform to the Identification of Secondary Metabolites from Cell Cultures: Benzophenanthridine Alkaloids from Elicited Eschscholzia Californica (California poppy) Cell Cultures, Analytical Methods, 4, 2012, 1315-1325
  • M. Shulman, M. Cohen, A. Soto-Gutierrez, H. Yagi, H. Wang, J. Goldwasser, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, O. Benny-Ratsaby, M.L. Yarmush, Y. Nahmias Enhancement of Naringenin Bioavailability by Complexation with Hydroxypropyl-ß-cyclodextrin, PLoS ONE, 6(4), 2011, e18033
See Google Scholar Profile for all publications »

Related News

July 11, 2014

Caroline Webb, a student of Chemical Engineering, is the recipient of a 2014 Provost Undergraduate Research Award in the amount of $1,000. Recipients of this award are funded by the Provost's...

April 30, 2013

Congratulations to the recipients of this year's College of Engineering Faculty and Staff awards . Outstanding Teachers of First Year Engineering Students: Thomas Gilbert, Chemistry; Susan...

September 7, 2010

ChE Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons is using a $550K NSF grant to develop a method to boost the production of anti-cancer drugs that are produced by the Madagascar periwinkle plant.

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