northeastern university seal

Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons

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


Social Media


  • 335 Mugar
  • 617.373.3634

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 research is in biochemical engineering, specifically the area of metabolic engineering. Metabolic engineering embodies the principles, framework, and methodologies for understanding and manipulating the metabolic pathways in the cell for targeted and improved chemical transformations. My research group and I are applying metabolic engineering principles and methodologies to improve the production of important compounds from plants or plant cell cultures. Our research relies heavily on understanding the complex network of biosynthetic reactions within the cell and the application of tools in analytical chemistry for unveiling the secrets of the cell. The outcome of this research is an understanding of how to rationally direct the resources of the cell (i.e. precursor and energy fluxes) for significant enhancements in the production of the desired chemical compound. Our research is being applied to address:

Focus 1: the production of cost-prohibitive pharmaceutical compounds from cell cultures of plants.
Focus 2: the growing problem of antibiotic resistance using plant-derived compounds to inhibit bacterial defense mechanisms.
Focus 3: the efficient cultivation of plants with high nutritional quality for food, in environments with limited gas exchange such as those found on space stations

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 metabolic 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

  • NSF CAREER Award

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

Department Research Areas

Selected Publications

  • 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
  • N.F. Rizvi, J. Weaver, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, Silencing the Transcriptional Repressor, ZCT1, Illustrates the Tight Regulation of Terpenoid Indole Alkaloid Biosynthesis, PLoS ONE, 11(7), 2016, e0159712
  • N. Rizvi, M. Cornejo, K. Stein, J. Weaver, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, An Efficient Transformation Method for Estrogen-Inducible Transgene Expression in Catharanthus roseus Hairy Roots, Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC), 120(2), 2015, 475-487
  • J. Weaver, S. Goklany, N. Rizvi, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, Optimizing the Transient Fast Agro-Mediated Seedling Transformation (FAST) Method in Catharanthus roseus Seedlings, Plant Cell Reports, 33(1), 2014, 89-97
  • S. Goklany, N. Rizvi, R.H. Loring, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, Jasmonate-Dependent Alkaloid Biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus is Correlated with the Relative Expression of Orca and Zct Transcription Factors, Biotechnology Progress, 29(6), 2013, 1367-1376
  • N. Rizvi, S. Goklany, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, Rapid Increases of Key Regulators Precede the Increased Production of Pharmaceutically Valuable Compounds in Catharanthus roseus, Pharmaceutical Engineering, 33(6), 2013, 1-8


May 13, 2019

ChE Alumna Discusses Career Journey

Pik Leng Wong, MS, Chemical Engineering, 2001 and BS, Chemical Engineering, 1999—Pik Leng Wong graduated from the Chemical Engineering BS/MS program in 2001. Pik Leng recently recounted her BS/MS experience at NU, with her Advisor Prof. Carolyn Lee-Parsons, and how it prepared her for her industrial career. How has your Bachelor’s education at Northeastern prepared […]


Mar 29, 2019

Lee-Parsons Wins Excellence in Teaching Award

Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons recently received the Northeastern University Excellence in Teaching Award. Nominations for the Excellence in Teaching Awards are made by students. They consider several criteria, including depth of knowledge in the subject; ability to provide effective links among course content, research, and experiential learning; and the rigor of course content. The award […]


May 01, 2018

Faculty and Staff Awards 2018

Congratulations to all the winners of the faculty and staff awards, and to everyone for their hard work and dedication during the 2017-2018 academic school year.


Jun 08, 2017

Belmont Resident Delivered Keynote Speech at the Interdisciplinary Plant Science Symposium

ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons was featured in the Belmont Patch after giving the Keynote Speech at the Interdisciplinary Plant Science Symposium.


May 18, 2017

Deb Pano and Dr. Diana Bernal-Franco Win Advanced Research/Creative Endeavors Grant from Northeastern University

After over a year of research, ChE BS/MS student Deb Pano and Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr. Diana Bernal-Franco were awarded an Endeavor Grant from Northeastern University. Both Ms. Pano and Dr. Bernal-Franco work in lab of ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons. Their research began with looking at the defense mechanism of the Catharanthus roseus plant, […]


Apr 26, 2017

Lee-Parsons Selected as NEASPB Keynote Speaker

ChE Associate Professor Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons gave the keynote speech on "Engineering the Production of Medicinal Natural Products from Plant Tissue Culture" at the Interdisciplinary Plant Science Symposium at the Northeast Regional American Society of Plant Biology Meeting.


Jul 25, 2016

Northeastern iGEM Team to Compete in iGEM Jamboree

The NU-iGEM Team led by ChE/COE Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons competed in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Jamboree.


Jul 11, 2014

Congratulations Caroline Webb

Caroline Webb, a student of Chemical Engineering, is the recipient of a 2014 Provost Undergraduate Research Award in the amount of $1,000. Recipients of this award are funded by the Provost's Office and are overseen by full-time Northeastern faculty members. Students are also encouraged to present the results of their research at campus-wide events such as RISE, which […]

Apr 30, 2013

Congratulations COE Award Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of this year's College of Engineering Faculty and Staff awards. Outstanding Teachers of First Year Engineering Students: Thomas Gilbert, Chemistry; Susan Freeman, Engineering; John Lindhe, Mathematics; Bala Maheswaran, Physics  Martin W. Essigmann Outstanding Teaching Award: Nader Jalili, MIE; Carolyn Lee-Parsons, ChE  Outstanding Cooperative Education Coordinator Award: George Kent, ECE Outstanding Staff Award: Tracy Bourassa, ARC; Faith […]


Apr 04, 2012

FY13 TIER 1 Award Recipients

27 COE faculty and affiliates were recipients of FY13 TIER 1 Interdisciplinary Research Seed Grants for 21 different research projects.

View All Related News