David N. Beratan


R.J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Beratan is developing theoretical approaches to understand the function of complex molecular and macromolecular systems, including: the molecular underpinnings of energy harvesting and charge transport in biology; the mechanism of solar energy capture and conversion in man-made structures; the nature of charge conductivity in naturally occurring nucleic acids and in synthetic constructs, including the photochemical repair of damaged DNA in extremophiles; CH bond activation by copper oxygenase enzymes; the flow of charge in bacterial appendages on the micrometer length scale; the theoretical foundations for inverse molecular design - the property driven discovery of chemical structures with optimal properties; the exploitation of molecular diversity in the mapping of molecular and materials "space"; the use of infra-red excitation to manipulate electron transport through molecules; the optical signatures of molecular chirality and the influence of chirality on charge transport. Prof. Beratan is affiliated with the Departments of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, as well as Duke's programs in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Structural Biology and Biophysics, Nanosciences, and Phononics.  

Appointments and Affiliations

  • R.J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry
  • Professor of Chemistry
  • Professor of Biochemistry
  • Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 5311 French Science Center, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-1526
  • Email Address: david.beratan@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, 1986
  • B.S. Duke University, 1980

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Bourke Award. Royal Society of Chemistry. 2019
  • Murray S. Goodman Memorial Prize. American Chemical Society and Biopolymers. 2018
  • Florida Award. American Chemical Society. 2017
  • Charles H. Herty Medal . American Chemical Society Georgia Section. 2015
  • Elected Fellow. American Chemical Society. 2013
  • Feynman Prize for Nanoscience (Theory). Foresight Institute. 2013
  • Elected Fellow. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2002
  • Conrad E. Ronneberg Visiting Scholar. University of Chicago. 2001
  • Elected Fellow. American Physical Society. 2001
  • Ralph & Lucy Hirschmann Visiting Professorship. University of Pennsylvania. 2000
  • Fellow. J.S. Guggenheim Foundation. 1999
  • Visiting Fellow. All Souls College, University of Oxford. 1999
  • National Young Investigator Award . National Science Foundation. 1992

Courses Taught

  • ARTS&SCI 302: How Does Biology Work? The Physical and Chemical Underpinnings of Biological Nanomachines
  • CHEM 302: How Does Biology Work? The Physical and Chemical Underpinnings of Biological Nanomachines
  • CHEM 590: Special Topics in Chemistry

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Ru, X; Zhang, P; Beratan, DN, Assessing Possible Mechanisms of Micrometer-Scale Electron Transfer in Heme-Free Geobacter sulfurreducens Pili., Journal of Physical Chemistry B (2019) [10.1021/acs.jpcb.9b01086] [abs].
  • Polizzi, NF; Jiang, T; Beratan, DN; Therien, MJ, Engineering opposite electronic polarization of singlet and triplet states increases the yield of high-energy photoproducts., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2019) [10.1073/pnas.1901752116] [abs].
  • Beratan, DN, Why Are DNA and Protein Electron Transfer So Different?, Annual Review of Physical Chemistry, vol 70 (2019), pp. 71-97 [10.1146/annurev-physchem-042018-052353] [abs].
  • Bai, S; Zhang, P; Antoniou, P; Skourtis, SS; Beratan, DN, Quantum interferences among Dexter energy transfer pathways., Faraday Discussions (2019) [10.1039/c9fd00007k] [abs].
  • Michaeli, K; Beratan, DN; Waldeck, DH; Naaman, R, Voltage-induced long-range coherent electron transfer through organic molecules., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 116 no. 13 (2019), pp. 5931-5936 [10.1073/pnas.1816956116] [abs].