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James Prell

James Prell profile picture
  • Title: Assistant Professor
  • Additional Title: Biophysics, Materials Chemistry, Physical Chemistry & Analytical/Bioanalytical Chemistry
  • Phone: 541-346-2597
  • Office: 141 Klamath Hall
  • Affiliated Departments: Institute of Molecular Biology
  • Website: Website


Postdoctoral scholar, University of California, Berkeley, Jan 2011-July 2014 (Research adviser: Professor Stephen R. Leone). Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Chemistry, May 2011 (Research adviser: Professor Evan R. Williams). Coursework, University of California, Berkeley, Germanic Literatures and Linguistics, 2005-2006. B.A. (summa cum laude), Washington University in Saint Louis, Chemistry, Mathematics, and German, with minors in Music and Religious Studies, 2005. Awards and Honors: Florence Moog Honorary Fellow at WUStL (2001-2005), Barry M. Goldwater Scholar (2003-2005), Andrew W. Mellon Fellow (2005), Regents Intern Fellow at UC Berkeley (2005).

Prell Group website


The Prell laboratory uses state-of-the-art mass spectrometry and ion mobility techniques to investigate the physical and chemical properties that govern the organization of macromolecular assemblies at the nanoscale, including those found in biological membranes.  At the scale of a few nanometers, chemical interactions (from covalent bonds to hydrogen bonds and van der Waals interactions) collectively give rise to material properties, such as surface tension, viscosity, and phase separation behavior, in many condensed phase "soft-matter" systems.  Biological cells, for instance, likely exploit delicate balances of these interactions to regulate signalling, endocytosis, and many other processes, although a precise characterization of the nanoscale structures that are involved can be extremely challenging.  Mass spectrometry and allied techniques have proved invaluable for studying the structure and organization of many kinds of matter, from simple molecules to megadalton-sized cytosolic and even membrane protein assemblies.  Our lab uses newly developed methods capable of transferring and analyzing intact macromolecular assemblies in the gas phase while retaining much of their condensed-phase tertiary and quaternary structure.  We learn complementary information about their shape and folding state in these same experiments using ion mobility spectrometry.  Combined with computational modeling and results from other bioanalytical experiments, data obtained with these methods can be used to construct detailed models of the assemblies.  Assembly structures and their dependence on the condensed-phase environment in which they arise enable us to paint a vivid picture of how biological and other nanoscale systems bridge the gap from chemical to material properties, with a view toward biochemical, pharmaceutical, and technological applications.


1.     Prell, J.S.; Borja, L.J.; Neumark, D.M.; Leone, S.R. Simulation of Attosecond-Resolved Imaging of the Plasmon Electric Field in Metallic Nanoparticles. Ann. Phys.—Berlin 2013, 525, 151-161.

2.     Nagel, P.M.; Robinson, J.S.; Harteneck, B.; Pfeifer, T.; Abel, M.J.; Prell, J.S.; Neumark, D.M.; Kaindl, R.A.; Leone, S.R. Surface Plasmon Assisted Electron Acceleration in Photoemission from Gold Nanopillars. Chem. Phys. 2013, 414, 106-111.

3.     Chang, T.M.; Prell, J.S.; Warrick, E.R.; Williams, E.R. Where’s the Charge? Protonation Sites in Gaseous Ions Change with Hydration. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 15805-15813.

4.     Sterling, H.J; Prell, J.S.; Cassou, C.A.; Williams, E.R. Protein Conformation and Supercharging with DMSO from Aqueous Solution. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2011, 22, 1178–1186.

5.     Prell, J.S.; Chang, T.M.; Biles, J.A.; Berden, G.; Oomens, J.; Williams, E.R. Isomer Population Analysis of Gaseous Ions from Infrared Multiple Photon Dissociation Spectroscopy. J. Phys. Chem. A 2011, 115, 2745–2751.

6.     Prell, J.S.; O’Brien, J.T.; Williams, E.R. Structural and Electric Field Effects of Ions in Aqueous Nanodrops. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 4810–4818.

7.     Prell, J.S.; Correra, T.C.; Chang, T.M.; Biles, J.A.; Williams, E.R. Entropy Drives a Water Molecule from the C- to N-Terminus on Protonated Proline. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 14733–14735.

8.     O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Berden, G.; Oomens, J.; Williams, E.R. Effects of Anions on the Zwitterion Stability of Glu, His, and Arg Investigated by IRMPD Spectroscopy and Theory. Int. J. Mass Spectrom. 2010, 297, 116–123.

9.     O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Williams, E.R. Sulfate Ion Patterns Water at Long Distance. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 8248–8249.

10.  Prell, J.S.; Chang, T.M.; O’Brien, J.T.; Williams, E.R. Hydration Isomers of Protonated Phenylalanine and Derivatives: Relative Stabilities from Infrared Photodissociation. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010132, 7811–7819.

11.  Prell, J.S.; O’Brien, J.T.; Williams, E.R. IRPD Spectroscopy and Ensemble Measurements: Effects of Different Data Acquisition and Analysis Methods. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2010, 21, 800–809.

12.  Prell, J.S.; Flick, T.G.; Oomens, J.; Berden, G.; Williams, E.R. Coordination of Trivalent Metal Cations to Peptides: Results from IRMPD Spectroscopy and Theory. J. Phys. Chem. A 2010, 114, 854–860.

13.  Bush, M.F.; O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Wu, C.; Saykally, R.J.; Williams, E. R. Hydration of Alkaline Earth Metal Dications: Effects of Metal Ion Size Determined Using Infrared Action Spectroscopy. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 13270–13277.

14.  Donald, W.A.; Leib, R.D.; Demireva, M.; O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Williams, E.R. Directly Relating Reduction Energies of Gaseous Eu(H2O)n3+, n = 55-140, to Aqueous Solutions: The Absolute SHE Potential and Real Proton Solvation Energy. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 13328–13337.

15.  Prell, J.S.; O’Brien, J.T.; Steill, J.D.; Oomens, J.; Williams, E.R. Structures of Protonated Dipeptides: The Role of Arginine in Stabilizing Salt Bridges. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009131, 11442–11449.

16.  Prell, J.S.; Williams, E.R. Structures of Thermal, Mass-Selected Water Clusters Probed with Hydrophobic Ion Tags and Infrared Photodissociation Spectroscopy. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009131, 4110–4119.

17.  O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Steill, J.D.; Oomens, J.; Williams, E.R. Changes in Binding Motif of Protonated Heterodimers Containing Valine Investigated Using IRMPD Spectroscopy between 800 and 3700 cm−1 and Theory. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009131, 3905-3912.

18.  Prell, J.S.; Demireva, M.; Williams, E.R. Role of Sequence in Salt-Bridge Formation for Alkali Metal Cationized GlyArg and ArgGly Investigated with IRMPD Spectroscopy and Theory. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009131, 1232–1242.

19.  O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Steill, J.D.; Oomens, J.; Williams, E.R. Interactions of Mono- and Divalent Metal Cations with Aspartic and Glutamic Acid Investigated with Infrared Photodissociation Spectroscopy and Theory. J. Phys. Chem. A 2008112, 10823–10830.

20.  Prell, J.S.; O’Brien, J.T.; Holm, A.I.S.; Leib, R.D.; Donald, W.A.; Williams, E.R. Electron Capture Dissociation by a Hydrated Gaseous Peptide: Effects of Water on Fragmentation and Molecular Survival. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008130, 12680–12689.

21.  O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Holm, A.I.S.; Williams, E.R. Effects of Electron Kinetic Energy and Ion-Electron Inelastic Collisions in Electron Capture Dissociation Measured Using Ion Nanocalorimetry. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 200819, 772–779.

22.  Bush, M.F.; Prell, J.S.; Saykally, R.J.; Williams, E.R. One Water Molecule Stabilizes the Cationized Arginine Zwitterion. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007129, 13544–13553.

23.  Bush, M.F.; O’Brien, J.T.; Prell, J.S.; Saykally, R.J.; Williams, E.R. Infrared Spectroscopy of Cationized Arginine in the Gas Phase: Direct Evidence for the Transition from Nonzwitterionic to Zwitterionic Structure. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007129, 1612–1622.

24.  Gaspar, P.P.; Liu, X.P.; Ivanova, D.; Read, D.; Prell, J.S.; Gross, M.L. Four Valence-Electron Reactive Intermediates and the Philicity of Charged Carbene Analogs. Modern Aspects of Main Group Chemistry 2006917, 52–65.