Marie Heffern

Heffern - profile 2022

Position Title
Associate Professor

210 Chemistry

The extracellular space is a dynamic environment wherein vital signaling takes place. It also hosts biomolecules that serve as current and potential biomarkers for disease states. Our research seeks to uncover the molecular players connecting metal micronutrients and metabolic function in this extracellular milieu. Our approaches and strategies sit at the interface of bioinorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, chemical biology, metabolic biology, and soil chemistry. Our lab has a specific interests in the interplay between first-row d-block transition metals and hormone function, with longstanding goal of extending our insights to develop therapeutic and diagnostic solutions to endocrine disorders spanning diabetes, liver disease, and cancer. Additionally, we have begun investigating the role of metals and metal-modulating metabolites in the plant rhizosphere with a specific interest in soil-borne polyphenols.

Education, Awards and Professional Highlights

Select Awards and Professional Highlights:

  • ACS Jonathan L. Sessler Award for Emerging Leaders in Bioinorganic and Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry (2023)
  • Paul Saltman Young Investigator Award (2022)
  • NSF CAREER (2021 - Present)
  • UC Davis Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award (2020)
  • NIH NIGMS R35 Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA) (2019 - Present)
  • Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award (2019-Present)
  • CAMPOS Faculty Scholar, UC Davis (2017-2018)
  • Chemical & Engineering News' Talented 12 (2017)
  • University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow (2015-2017)

Training and Education:

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California Berkeley (2015-2017)
  • Ph.D. Northwestern University (2014)
  • B.S. University of Southern California (2009)

Representative Publications

Please see website for full publication list. Below are representative publications.

O’Sullivan, J. J.‡, Uyeda, K. S.‡, Stevenson, M. J., Heffern, M. C. Investigation of metal modulation of oxytocin structure receptor-mediated signaling. RSC Chem. Biol. 2023. DOI: 10.1039/D2CB00225F.

Lee, V. J., Heffern, M. C.* Structure-activity assessment of flavonoids as modulators of copper transport. Front. Chem., 2022. DOI:

Janisse, S. E., Sharma, V. A., Caceres, A., Medici, V., Heffern, M. C.* Systematic Evaluation of Copper(II)-Loaded Immobilized Metal Affinity Chromatography for Selective Enrichment of Copper-Binding Species in Human Serum and Plasma. Metallomics, 2022. DOI:

O’Sullivan, J. J., Medici, V., Heffern, M. C.* A caged imidazopyrazinone for selective bioluminescence detection of labile extracellular copper(II). Chem. Sci. 2022, 13, 4352-4363. 

Harder, N. H. O., Hieroniumus, B., Stanhope, K. L., Shibata, N. M., Lee, V., Nunez, M. V., Keim, N. L., Bremer, A., Havel, P. J., Heffern, M. C.*, Medici, V.* Effects of Dietary Glucose and Fructose on Copper, Iron, and Zinc Metabolism Parameters in Humans. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2581.

Olugbeminiyi, O. F., Heffern, M. C., Sanders Johnson, S., Townsend, S. D. What Comes Next? Simple Practices to Improve Diversity in Science. ACS Cent. Sci. 2020, 6, 1231-1240. (Editorial)

Stevenson, M. J., Janisse, S. E., Tao, L., Neil, R. L., Pham, Q. D., Britt, R. D., Heffern, M. C.* Elucidation of a Copper Binding Site in Proinsulin C-peptide and Its Implications for Metal-Modulated Activity. Inorg. Chem.2020, 59, 9339–9349.

Stevenson, M. J.†, Uyeda, K. S.†, Harder, N. H., Heffern, M. C.* Metal-dependent hormone function: the emerging interdisciplinary field of metalloendocrinology. Metallomics2019, 11, 85-110. (Review Article)