Jason Belitsky

  • Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Areas of Study


  • BA, Amherst College, 1997
  • PhD, California Institute of Technology, 2002


Professor Belitsky was a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA where he trained with Nobel Laureate Sir. J. Fraser Stoddart. At Oberlin he helped found the Center for Learning, Education, and Research in the Sciences (CLEAR). Professor Belitsky teaches general, organic, and biochemistry.


Melanins, bioorganic chemistry, chemical biology, supramolecular chemistry.

Melanins, the pigments in human hair, skin, eyes––and even the brain!––are not very well understood on a chemical level, but they have many fascinating chemical properties that contribute to their biological roles, diseases such as skin cancer, and can be developed for non-biological applications.

We are particularly interested in the molecular recognition properties of melanins.  Our lab uses a combination of organic synthesis, biochemical, environmental and materials chemistry approaches to study melanin self-assembly and interactions with other molecules.  This work is supported by a recent grant from the National Science Foundation, entitled “Bioorganic Chemistry of Eumelanin.”

One application that we are pursuing is water purification, which takes advantage of the ability of melanin from natural sources and synthetic analogs to bind to heavy metals and organic pollutants.  In a related project, we are investigating melanin-inspired coatings as colorimetric sensors for metal ions. 

  • Belitsky, J.M. "Aryl boronic acid inhibition of synthetic melanin polymerization" Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2010, 20, 4475-4478.
  • Sono, K.*; Lye, D.*; Moore, C.A.*; Boyd, W.C.*; Gorlin, T.A.*; Belitsky, J.M. “Melanin-based coatings as lead-binding agents” Bioinorganic Chemistry and Applications 2012, Article ID 361803.
  • Belitsky, J.M.; Ellowitz, M.Z.*; Lye, D.*; Kilbo, A.L.* “Small molecule modulators of aggregation in synthetic melanin polymerizations” Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2012, 22, 5503-5507
  • Belitsky, J.M.; Lye, D.S.*; Gittleman, H.R.*; Gorlin, T.A.*; Gorham, A.N.*; Moore, C.A.*; Chaves, M.B.*; Ellowitz, M.Z.* “Colorimetric metal ion binding of catechol-based coatings inspired by melanin and molecular imprinting” Supramolecular Chemistry 2014, 26, 233-244.
  • Stanhope, L.; Ziegler, L.; Haque, T.; Le, L.; Vinces, M.; Davis, G.K.; Zieffler, A.; Brodfuehrer, P.; Preest, M.; Belitsky, J.M.; Umbanhowar, C., Jr.; Overvoorde, P.J. “Development of a Biological Science Quantitative Reasoning Exam (BioSQuaRE)” CBE–Life Sciences Education 2017, 16:ar66.
  • Aebly, A.H.; Levy, J.N.*; Steger, B.J.*; Quirke, J.C.*; Belitsky, J.M. “Expedient synthesis of eumelanin-inspired 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylate ether ester derivatives” RSC Advances 2018, 8, 28323-2832.

Fall 2024

Principles of Chemistry — CHEM 102


Jason Belitsky Interviewed

June 1, 2016

Associate Professor of Chemistry Jason Belitsky was interviewed about the benefits of OHIOLink for the article “Oberlin professor shares melanin research with undergraduate students” published on the OhioLINK website.