Headshot of Professor William Tong

William Tong, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182

Bill Tong, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, joined SDSU as an associate professor in 1985 after working as a post-doctoral research fellow for one year at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy.  In 1989, five years after receiving his Ph.D. (Iowa State University, 1984), he was promoted to full professor.  He has supervised 20 Ph.D. students (UCSD-SDSU) and 20 Master’s students and hosted many postdoctoral students and visiting scientists/professors.  He has been awarded major research grants by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health (R01), U.S. Department of Defense (CCAT), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Lockheed Martin, Beckman, Varian, Johnson and Johnson, CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology and other funding agencies.  He holds patents on nonlinear laser methods.  He regularly serves on NIH and NSF review panels and study sections.  He also serves on editorial boards and reviews for many international research journals.

He was named the 2003 Distinguished Scientist (San Diego Region) by the American Chemical Society.  He was named Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 2005.  He received the Albert Johnson University Research Award, SDSU’s top research award, in 2005, and the 2005 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Sigma Xi Research Society.  He also received the 2008 SDSU President Leadership Award.  He was awarded Outstanding SDSU Faculty Awards in 1990, 1991 and 2000, and the SDSU Technology Innovation Award in 2002.  His research projects have been reported by Analytical Chemistry, Applied Spectroscopy (cover story), San Diego Union-Tribune (front page) and San Diego TV stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, KUSI, KPBS, UCSD-TV and University of California-TV).

Bill Tong has developed novel nonlinear laser methods for chemical analysis with zeptomole-level (1e-21 mole) or sub-parts-per-quadrillion-level detection sensitivity.  These patented laser wave-mixing methods can distinguish not only large biomolecules but also isotopes.  His nonlinear laser-based detectors are more compact and less expensive than currently available isotope-capable mass spectrometers.  Wave-mixing laser methods yield hyperfine profiles, i.e., atomic fingerprints, and hence, unambiguous isotope information from both stable and radioisotopes.  Hence, one could use stable isotopes as biotracers instead of radioactive biotracers.  Laser wave mixing offers comparable or better detection sensitivity levels as compared to laser-based fluorescence methods and yet wave mixing can detect fluorescing and non-fluorescing molecules.  Hence, biomolecules could be detected in their native form without using tags or labels.  Picoliter-level probe volumes allow detection of small samples such as single bio cells and convenient interfacing to chip-based electrophoresis systems, compact sensors, microarrays and microfluidic devices that are suitable for studying mechanisms and dynamics of important chemical and biological processes.  These novel laser methods offer improvements in sensitivity and selectivity to levels previously thought impractical.  Potential applications include earlier detection of diseases, better design of cleaner drugs, more sensitive detection of pollutants and chemicals both inside the human body and in the environment, remote standoff detection of chem/bio agents, and even authentication of paintings and art objects.