Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons

Associate Professor,  Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor,  Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Affiliated Faculty,  Bioengineering


Social Media


  • 335 Mugar
  • 617.373.3634


  • 132 Mugar

Related Links

Research Focus

Production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus


Joined the Chemical Engineering Department in Fall 1999.

My main research focus is the production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus. Plant cell culture is potentially a better route for supplying certain structurally complex drug molecules than chemical synthesis or extraction from whole plants. Moreover, plant cell culture can potentially produce these drug molecules at a faster and more consistent rate than whole plants. The overall vision of my research is to meet the needs and demands of important and cost-prohibitive plant-derived pharmaceuticals using plant cell culture, applying engineering strategies, and ultimately developing an economically viable process using plant cell culture.


  • 1995 PhD (Chemical Engineering), Cornell University, Advisor: Prof. Michael L. Shuler
  • BS (Chemical Engineering), University of Kansas Summa cum laude

Honors & Awards

  • College of Engineering Faculty Fellow, 2022
  • University Excellence in Teaching Award, 2019
  • Martin W. Essigmann Outstanding Teaching Award, 2013, 2018
  • Selected for the Northeastern Research Leadership Development Initiative (ReDI) Program, 2016 – 2017
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2002 – 2007

Research Overview

Production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus

The Lee-Parsons’ Lab seeks to understand how plant cells regulate the biosynthesis of important molecules and then reprograms this regulatory network to increase production.  Towards this goal, we apply methods in molecular biology and analytical chemistry to engineer the production of important compounds from plant cell & tissue cultures.  Our team includes chemical engineers, bioengineers, biochemists, molecular biologists, and plant biologists.  Our research vision is to meet the need for critical plant-derived pharmaceuticals or an alternative source of biofuels using cultures of plants or microalgae.

Cellular & Metabolic Lab

The Lee-Parsons Team investigates and engineers the production of pharmaceuticals from tissue cultures of plants ( Our model is the medicinal plant, Catharanthus roseus, the current source of the chemotherapeutic drugs, vinblastine and vincristine. Our strategy for engineering increased production involves: 1) investigating the network of “on- and off-switches” (called transcription factors) that control the biosynthesis of these medicinal compounds, and 2) developing synthetic biology tools towards engineering their increased production. Aspects of our research involve modular cloning, gene expression analysis, metabolite analysis, genetic engineering, cultivation of aseptic tissue cultures, and bioprocess development.

Cellular & Metabolic Lab

Selected Research Projects

Selected Publications

  • R. Grützner, P. Martin, C. Horn, S. Mortensen, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, J. Stuttmann, S. Marillonnet, High-Efficiency Genome Editing in Plants Mediated by a Cas9 Gene Containing Multiple Introns, Plant Communications, 2(2), 2021, 100135
  • S. Mortensen, D. Bernal-Franco, L.F. Cole, S. Sathitloetsakun, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, EASI transformation: An Efficient Transient Expression Method for Analyzing Gene Function in Catharanthus roseus Seedlings, Frontiers in Plant Sciences, 2019
  • S. Mortensen, J. Weaver, S. Sathitloetsakun, L.F. Cole, N.F. Rizvi, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, The Regulation of Zct1, a Transcriptional Repressor of Monoterpenoid Indole Alkaloid Biosynthetic Genes in Catharanthus roseus, Plant Direct, 3, 2019, 1-13
  • L. Kirchner, A. Wirshing, L. Kurt, T. Reinard, J. Glick, E.J. Cram, H-J. Jacobsen, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons Identification, Characterization, and Expression of Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase Type-1 from Chlorella vulgaris, Algal Research, 13, 2016, 167-181
Lee-Parsons Google Scholar


May 18, 2022

Announcing Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awards.


Apr 15, 2022

Faculty and Staff Awards 2022

Congratulations to all the winners of the faculty and staff awards, and to everyone for their hard work and dedication during the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Amanda Dee

Spotlight Story

Mar 17, 2022

Passion for Research in the Lab and in Industry Leads to Goldwater Scholar Nomination

Amanda Dee, E’23, bioengineering, has always enjoyed learning about the world around her. She participated in FIRST Lego League at the age of 8 and reached out to a professor in her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, at 13 years old—an experience that sparked her interest in plant biology. Her passion for hands-on work and STEM […]


Feb 04, 2022

2022 Goldwater Scholarship Nominees

Bioengineering students Amanda Dee, E’23, and Giona Kleinberg, E’23, were nominated for the 2022 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.


Jan 31, 2022

ChE PhD Student Receives ASPB Travel Award

Krystyna K. F. Traverse, PhD’23, chemical engineering, has been awarded a 2022 American Society of Plant Biologist Travel Award to attend the Plant Biology 2022 Worldwide Summit in Portland, OR from July 9-13, 2022. Traverse is advised by ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons.


Nov 03, 2021

Students Receive Oral Presentation Awards at ASPB Annual Meeting

Students advised by ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons received awards for their oral presentations at the Northeast American Society of Plant Biologists Annual Meeting. Lauren Cole, PhD’21, BioE:  1st place in the graduate category Krystyna Traverse, PhD’23, ChE:  3rd place in the graduate category Amanda Dee, E’22, BioE:  3rd place in the undergraduate category


Oct 12, 2021

Announcing Fall 2021 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Fall 2021 PEAK Experiences Awards. The PEAK Experiences Awards are a progressively structured sequence of opportunities designed to support learners as they continue climbing to new heights of achievement in undergraduate research and creative endeavor throughout their Northeastern journeys. ASCENT AWARDS […]

Student working in lab with test tube


May 13, 2021

BioE Student Wins ASPB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Amanda Dee, E’22, bioengineering, was awarded the 2021 American Society of Plant Biologists Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (ASPB SURF) to pursue her research with ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons and her graduate mentor, Ms. Krystyna Farrell.

Carolyn Lee-Parsons and Erin Cram


Mar 03, 2021

Investigating the Defense-Related Responses of Plants

ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons and BioE Affiliated Faculty member Erin Cram were awarded an $800K NSF grant for creating ” A Novel CRISPR SynBio Tool for Investigating and Reprogramming the Regulation of Alkaloid Biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus.”

gapfund logo


Jan 30, 2020

Eight COE Projects Selected for GapFund360

Northeastern’s GapFund360 program helps Northeastern’s researchers bridge the gap between promising lab results and demonstrating a commercially viable prototype. Awards range from $50K -$100K. Nine projects were selected from a pool of 39 applications from across the university; COE contributed 25 of the applications and seven projects were selected for funding. Congratulations to the following COE researchers whose projects were selected for Phase I or Phase II GapFund360 funding: ChE Assistant Professor Sidi Bencherif, MIE Assistant Professor Safa Jamali, ECE Assistant Professor Sarah Ostadabbas, ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons, ECE Professor Tommaso Melodia, ECE Associate Research Scientist Salvatore D’Oro, ECE Associate Professor Kaushik Chowdhury, ECE Principal Research Scientist Yousof Naderi, ECE Postdoc Ufuk Muncuk, ECE Professor Vincent Harris, ECE Associate Research Scientist Parisa Andalib, ECE Associate Professor Matteo Rinaldi, and ECE Research Assistant Professor Zhenyun Qian.

View All Related News