MichiganChem alum Weihong Tan, (PhD 1992, Kopelman) currently a professor of chemistry at the University of Florida, has received the 2018 American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Spectrochemical Analysis for his “pioneering contributions in spectrochemical analysis: ultrasensitive bioanalysis with DNA probes, ultrasmall optical biosensors, development of biophotonic nanomaterials and aptamer-based chemistry and biotechnologies.”

The Award in Spectrochemical Analysis is given to researchers advancing the field of spectrochemical analysis and optical spectrometry in instrumental innovation and development, elucidation of instrumental event or processes, and authorship of influential publications in the field or instrumentation applications. It will be presented to Tan at the ACS award ceremony during the 2018 ACS Fall National Meeting in Boston, MA.

Weihong Tan (left) with his UM Chemistry mentor Raoul Kopelman.

Tan’s initial reaction to learning about receiving this prestigious award was to reminisce on his days at Michigan Chemistry where he learned to conduct innovative research in the then up and coming field of nanophotonics and biophotonics.

As a student of Professor Raoul Kopelman, he explored  “the very topic of spectrochemical analysis and optical spectroscopy. It was where I started the field where I got my current award.”  Tan graduated from Michigan Chemistry with his Ph.D. in 1992.

In 1995, he joined chemistry department at the University of Florida as an assistant professor and is now a University of Florida Distinguished Professor and a V.T. and Louis Jackson Professor. In addition, he is also a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Molecular Medicine at Hunan University in China.

The staggering scope of his group’s research is divided into Bioanalytical Chemistry, Chemical Biology, and Molecular Medicine. While at Michigan, Tan developed near-field optical probes for biochemical sensing. These probes were used for single molecule and single cell analysis. Through this work, he developed photonic probes for photonanofabrication—a term he coined. It is the process of combining nanofabrication techniques with luminescence to create nanoscopic materials smaller than a wave of light.

Via photonanofabrication, Tan and his group make probes and biosensors which they implement in their research. His current research focuses on DNA nanotechnology and theranostics—diagnostics performed to determine the best targeted therapy for individual patients.

Weihong Tan has an outstanding career with over 650 peer-reviewed scientific articles and an H-index of 122 (H-index is the number of papers a researcher has that are cited at least that many times).  Tan also has 25 issued patents. Currently, he has a 12-member lab at UF, and has mentored 54 doctoral students, 12 master's students and 95 post-doctoral fellows/visiting scholars in addition to 85 undergraduate and high school students. He also serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society.