William (Will) Parsons


  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Areas of Study


  • PhD, Stanford University, 2013
  • BA, Williams College, 2007

Chemical biology, small-molecule synthesis, intramembrane hydrolases

Enzyme-mediated hydrolysis is a ubiquitous component of numerous metabolic pathways in the body. Nature has developed a number of chemistries within hydrolase active sites to cleave a diverse array of biological substrates. The Parsons lab studies enzymes that use serine and threonine residues to catalyze turnover of their substrates. A subset of these enzymes with intramembrane active sites are of particular interest due to their unique biochemistry as well as their involvement in pathways underlying metabolic and neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes. 

The Parsons lab exploits the active site chemistry of these hydrolases to create new chemical probes for this enzyme class. Drawing upon methodology from synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and medicinal chemistry, research in the Parsons lab focuses on the development of small molecule tools to study the physiological roles of intramembrane hydrolases.

  • Ertunc, M.E.; Kok, B.P.; Parsons, W.H.; Wang, J.G.; Tan, D.; Donaldson, C. J.; Pinto, A.F.M.; Vaughan, J.M.; Ngo, N.; Lum, K.M.; Henry, C.L., Coppola, A.R.; Niphakis, M.J.; Cravatt, B.F.; Saez, E.; Saghatelian, A. “AIG1 and ADTRP are endogenous FAHFA hydrolases.” J. Biol. Chem. 2020, 295, 5891–5905.
  • Chen, A.L.; Lum, K.M.; Lara-Gonzalez, P.; Ogasawara, D.; Cognetta, A.B.; To, A.; Parsons, W.H.; Simon, G.M.; Desai, A.; Petrascheck, M.; Bar-Peled, L.; Cravatt, B.F. “Pharmacological convergence reveals a lipid pathway that regulates C. elegans lifespan.” Nat. Chem. Biol. 2019, 15, 453–462.
  • Ogura, Y.; Parsons, W.H.; Kamat, S.S.; Cravatt, B.F. “A calcium-dependent acyltransferase that produces N-acyl phosphatidylethanolamines.” Nat. Chem. Biol. 2016, 12, 669-671.
  • Parsons, W.H.*; Kolar, M.J.*; Kamat, S.S.; Cognetta, III, A.B.; Hulce, J.J.; Saez, E.; Kahn, B.B; Saghatelian, A.; Cravatt, B.F. “AIG1 and ADTRP are atypical integral membrane hydrolases that degrade bioactive FAHFAs.” Nat. Chem. Biol. 2016, 12, 367-372.
  • Parsons, W.H.; Du Bois, J. “Maleimide conjugates of saxitoxin as covalent inhibitors of voltage-gated sodium channels.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 10582-10585.


Winter Term in Oberlin: 2020

February 24, 2020

Winter Term is a time of year when Oberlin students are encouraged to conduct independent or group projects outside of courses related to their majors. Pursuits can be done on or off campus with students choosing to work almost anywhere on the map. This year we highlight some of the work by the more than 900 students who completed projects in Oberlin.

This Week in Photos: January 22

January 22, 2020

In this photo series, we explore the art of cinema storytelling; go to an entrepreneurial boot camp; get intense with strings and Greek; go back to high school in Berkeley; stop by the freezer section in Kim’s Grocery & Carryout; get involved with dark matter; learn R for SPSS; join a dance class; design an archeological exhibit; get cozy with a wild beast; and much more.