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John H. Golbeck

Emeritus, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Chemistry
John Golbeck

About Me

Prof. John Golbeck earned his Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry at Indiana University with Anthony San Pietro and carried out postdoctoral studies in Biophysics at Martin Marietta Laboratories with Bessel Kok. After working for nearly a decade at Martin Marietta Corp., he returned to academia, holding faculty positions in the Department of Chemistry at Portland State University, the Departments of Biochemistry, and Chemistry at the University of Nebraska, and the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Golbeck has taken sabbatical leaves in the Department of Chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic University in Troy, NY, in the Biosciences Group at the Centre d’Etudes Nucléaires de Saclay in Paris, in the Fachbereich Physik at the Freie Universität, Berlin, in the Microbiology Department at the Humboldt University in Berlin and in the Chemistry Department at Brock University. Prof. Golbeck is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Biophysical Society of America, and the International Society of Photosynthesis Research, where he served over a decade and one-half in the positions of Secretary and Treasurer.



Departmental of University Committees

  • Promotion and Tenure Committee; current member, past Chair
  • Honors and Awards Comittee; current member
  • Current Peer Teaching Evaluation Committee; current member
  • Post-Tenure Review Committee; current member



Program or Departmental Affiliations

BMMB Graduate Program The Chemistry Department Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences Plant Biology



Professional Organizations

  • Past Treasurer, Society for Photosynthesis Research
  • Past Secretary, Society for Photosynthesis Research




Center for Biological Chemistry Center for Plant Biology


Research Interest

Biophysical studies of electron transfer mechanisms in photosynthetic prokaryotes


Research Summary

Dr. Golbeck's research interests include study of the protein-cofactor interactions that confer thermodynamic properties to organic and inorganic cofactor in Photosystem I, the structural and functional composition of the homodimeric Type I reaction center in Heliobacterium modesticaldum, the composition of electrically conductive bacterial nanowires in Shewanella oneidensis, the re-engineering of halorhodopsin to pump carbonate ions in the light, and the use of biohybrid designs for molecular wires that connect Photosystem I with hydrogenase enzymes.

In the fall semester, Dr. Golbeck teaches one credit of a five-credit course for entering graduate students titled BMMB501 ‘Core Concepts in Biomolecular Science’. His module focuses on thermodynamics applied to biological systems and on the biogenergetics of photosynthesis and respiration. In the spring semester, Dr. Golbeck teaches a 3-credit course required for biochemistry majors in the BMB Department titled ‘Analytical Biochemistry’. The course is divided into two parts: analytical separations and biological spectroscopy. In both, the theory of the technique is discussed in a highly mathematical framework and real-world examples are provided to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the technique. The purpose of the lectures is to provide the background necessary to read, understand, and discuss 15 landmark papers in the literature throughout the course of the semester. The course is heavily weighted toward active learning and interactive team activities. 



Honors and Awards

  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, 2009, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN.
    • “The highest distinction the university can bestow, this award honors alumni who have enhanced the prestige of the university by virtue of their character, integrity, and nationally recognized personal accomplishments”. 
  • Daniel R. Tershak Memorial Faculty Teaching Award, 2006, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 



Selected Publications

  • Lubner, C. E., Applegate, A. M., Knörzer, P., Ganago, A., Bryant, D. A., Happe, T., and Golbeck, J. H. (2011) Solar hydrogen-producing bionanodevice outperforms natural photosynthesis, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108, 20988-20991.
  • Pirbadian, S., Barchinger, S. E., Leung, K. M., Byun, H. S., Jangir, Y., Bouhenni, R. A., Reed, S. B., Romine, M. F., Saffarini, D. A., Shi, L., Gorby, Y. A., Golbeck, J. H., and El-Naggar, M. Y. (2014) Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 nanowires are outer membrane and periplasmic extensions of the extracellular electron transport components, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111, 12883-12888.
  • Ferlez, B., Cowgill, J., Dong, W., Gisriel, C., Lin, S., Flores, M., Walters, K., Cetnar, D., Redding, K. E., and Golbeck, J. H. (2016) Thermodynamics of the electron acceptors in Heliobacterium modesticaldum: An exemplar of an early homodimeric type I photosynthetic reaction center, Biochemistry 55, 2358-2370.
  • Gisriel, C., Sarrou, I., Ferlez, B., Golbeck, J. H., Redding, K. E., and Fromme, R. (2017) Structure of a symmetric photosynthetic reaction center-photosystem, Science 357, 1021-1025.
  • Ortega-Ramos M, Canniffe DP, Radle M, Neil Hunter C, Bryant DA, Golbeck JH (2018) Engineered biosynthesis of bacteriochlorophyll gF in Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Biochim Biophys Acta 1859:501-509.
  • Cherepanov DA, Milanovsky GE, Gopta OA, Balasubramanian R, Bryant DA, Semenov AY, Golbeck JH (2018) Electron-phonon coupling in cyanobacterial Photosystem I. J Phys Chem B 122:7943-7955.
  • Feroz H, Ferlez B, Lefoulon C, Ren T, Baker CS, Gajewski JP, Lugar DJ, Gaudana SB, Butler PJ, Huhn J, Lamping M, Parak WJ, Hibberd JM, Kerfeld CA, Smirnoff N, Blatt MR, Golbeck JH, Kumar M (2018) Light-driven chloride transport kinetics of halorhodopsin. Biophys J 115:353-360.