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Robert Blankenship

Robert Blankenship’s research focuses on understanding the mechanism of energy-storing reactions in photosynthetic organisms, as well as understanding the origin and early evolution of photosynthesis. His research group studies almost every group of photosynthetic organism, including both anoxygenic and oxygenic photosynthetic bacteria, algae and higher plants, as well as some nonphotosynthetic bacteria.

The chemical reactions leading to long-term energy storage in photosynthetic systems take place within the membrane-bound reaction center complex and an associated group of proteins that make up an electron transport chain. One of the central goals is to identify the molecular parameters responsible for the fact that essentially every photon absorbed by the system leads to stable products. To better understand this, his lab performs a variety of kinetic, thermodynamic and structural measurements on antenna complexes, reaction centers, electron transport proteins and isolated pigments, using a number of techniques, including ultrafast laser flash photolysis and UV-VIS, fluorescence and electron spin resonance spectroscopies, as well as biochemical and molecular biological analysis, mass spectrometry and X-ray and neutron crystallography.


Midwest Award, American Chemical Society, 2015.

Lifetime Achievement Award, Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research, 2013.

Communications Award, International Society of Photosynthesis Research, 2013.

Elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, 2012.

Elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, 2001.

Relevant Publications

G. He et al, "Structural Analysis of the Homodimeric Reaction Center Complex from the Photosynthetic Green Sulfur Bacterium Chlorobaculum tepidum," Biochemistry, vol. 53, no. 30, pp. 4924-4930, Aug. 2014.

D. M. Niedzwiedzki et al, "Excited State Properties of 3′-Hydroxyechinenone in Solvents and in the Orange Carotenoid Protein from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803," J. Phys. Chem. B., vol. 118, no. 23, pp. 6141-6149, June 2014.

D. A. Hartzler et al, "Triplet Excited State Energies and Phosphorescence Spectra of (Bacterio)Chlorophylls," J. Phys. Chem. B, vol. 118, no. 26, pp. 7221-7232, July 2014.

D. M. Niedzwiedzki et al, "Excited state properties of chlorophyll f in organic solvents at ambient and cryogenic temperatures," Photosynth. Res., vol. 121, no. 1, pp. 25-34, July 2014.

D. R. Ort et al "Redesigning photosynthesis to sustainably meet global food and bioenergy demand," Proc. Nat’l. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 112, no. 28, pp. 8529-8536, July 2015.


R. E. Blankenship, Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, 2nd Ed. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

R. E. Blankenship, Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, 1st Ed. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science, 2002.

R. E Blankenship, M. Madigan and C. Bauer, Editors, Anoxygenic Photosynthetic Bacteria, Kluwer Academic Publishing, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1995



Advisory Committee Chair Bio-inspired Solar Energy


Washington University in St. LouisDepartments of Biology and Chemistry


PhD (Chemistry) University of California, Berkeley

BS (Chemistry with distinction) Nebraska Wesleyan University


United States

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