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Sarah Petty


Chemistry Department

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Liverpool


Fields: Physical, Biophysical

• Website
Curriculum Vitae

Office Phone: 508-793-3428
Office: Haberlin 336
Lab:  Smith Labs 358
PO Box: C
Office Hours:








Since I arrived at Holy Cross in the Fall of 2006, I have taught classes in modern (335) and classical (336) physical chemistry as well as an elective course in Biophysical Chemistry (361).

Students in my courses are encouraged to be active participants, asking questions when they need further clarification, answering the questions I pose and engaging in the problem solving we will do. Some or all of problem sets, exams, papers, lab reports and presentations may be used to evaluate student performance. There is a lab requirement for CHEM 335 in which students will gain hands-on experience with modern chemical instrumentation and will become proficient in data analysis and interpretation. Writing skills will also be honed in the lab portion of the course.


This course studies the fundamental principles governing electron and molecular motions, chemical bonding and spectroscopy. It is offered annually and is typically taken by chemistry majors in their junior year.  SYLLABUS


Affectionately known as "IER on steroids", this course focuses on thermodynamics (heat, work, enthalpy, entropy, etc) and kinetics of chemical processes. It is an optional course for majors, though is required for biochemistry concentrators. It can be taken in the junior or senior year.  SYLLABUS


This course studies the physical origin of the chemical interactions that govern the structure and function of biological molecules and the chemical techniques used to study these molecules. It is an elective course open to all Chemistry majors.    SYLLABUS



My research lies in the field of biophysical chemistry. I utilize infrared spectroscopy to study structural changes in proteins and peptides, in particular the misfolding of these biological molecules into non-native structures.

The structure of a protein is intrinsically linked to its function and so the misfolding of a protein is associated with many different diseases including Alzheimer's Disease, Cataracts, Huntington's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.

Infrared spectra of proteins reveals information about the alignment and strength of carbonyl bonds in the backbone of the amino acid chain and can be used to determine both secondary and tertiary structure. 


The four current projects ongoing in my lab are:

  • The stabilizing interactions in short alanine-based peptides

  • Understanding Transition Dipole Coupling in glutamine-based peptides

  • The Disaggregation of a model peptide

  • The role of the hydration sphere in protein folding 



Undergraduate co-authors are bolded

(11)   M. T. Bauer, K. A. Gilmore and S. A. Petty; Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications; 2011, 406, 3, 348-352
(10)   G. Liu, A. Prabhakar, D. Aucoin, M. Simon, S. Sparks, K. J. Robbins, A. Sheen, S. A. Petty and N. D. Lazo; Journal of the American Chemical Society; 2010, 132, 18223-18232
(9)     Y. Wang, S. A. Petty, A. T. Trojanowski, K. M. Knee, D. R. Goulet, I. Mukerji, and J. A. King; Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science; 2010, 51, 672-678.
(8)     D. A. Kirschner, A. A. R. Gross, M. M. Hidalgo, H. Inouye, K. A. Gleason, G. A. Abdelsayed, G. M. Castillo, A. D. Snow, A. Pozo-Ramajo, S. A. Petty, S. M. Decatur; Current Alzheimer Research, 2008,  5, 3, 288-307.
(7)     A. Pozo-Ramajo, S. A. Petty and M. Volk; Chem. Phys., 2006, 325, 1, 11-20.
(6)     S. A. Petty and S. M. Decatur; Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., U.S.A., 2005, 102, 40, 14272-14277.
(5)     S. A. Petty and S. M. Decatur; J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2005, 127, 39, 13488-13489.
(4)     A. Pozo-Ramajo, S. A. Petty, A. Starzyk, S. M. Decatur and M. Volk; J. Am. Chem. Soc, 2005, 127, 40, 13784-13785.
(3)     S. A. Petty, T. Adalsteinsson and S. M. Decatur; Biochemistry, 2005, 44, 12, 4720-4726.
(2)     S. A. Petty & M. Volk; Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2004, 6, 1022-1030.
(1)     R. W. Flood, T. P. Geller, S. A. Petty, S. M. Roberts, J. Skidmore and M. Volk; Org. Letts, 2001, 3, 5, 683-686. 



Julia Lam ('15)  Andrew Mullin ('15)  Ray Paranal ('15) 
  Jeremy Stewart ('14)  

Former Students

Kelly Gilmore ('12) Training with the Vesper Boat Club, PA.
David Balyozian ('12)  Working with "City Year Chicago"
Cristiana Pineda ('12) Working at Mass General; beginning a PhD in Biochemistry in Fall 2013
Brittany Deane ('12) Enrolled in a Masters Program in Public Health at BU
Tiago Martins ('12)  
Lindsey Tonge ('11) Completed Masters in Chemistry at Yale; Teaching High School Chemistry 
Jordan Trubiano ('11) Teaching in Mississippi as part of "Teach for America"
Jennifer Forkel ('11) Entering Nursing Program in 2013
Marianne Bauer ('10)  Enrolled in MD program at Dartmouth
Kelly Lyons ('10)  Enrolled in a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program
Tim Kelley ('09)  Research scientist at Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine International
Amy Trojanowski ('09)  Teaching Biology through the NYC Teaching Fellows Program
Alexie Andrew ('08) Completed graduate School at O.S.U. for Environmental Engineering
Daniel Goulet ('08)  Enrolled in a PhD program in Biology at UNC
Kristen Oats ('08) Employed in the finance department of G.E.