Jennifer Niven Shepherd, Ph.D.

Professor & Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry

My formal training is in the area of synthetic organic chemistry; however, my research interests have evolved over the last 20 years to utilize biochemistry, molecular biology, and analytical chemistry tools. I am interested in biosynthesis and anaerobic...

Dr. Jennifer Shepherd

Contact Information

Education & Curriculum Vitae

Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles

M.S., University of California at Los Angeles

B.S., Oregon State University

Courses Taught

CHEM 101/101L: General Chemistry

CHEM 104/104L: Art and Chemistry

CHEM 230/230L: Organic Chemistry I

CHEM 231/231L: Organic Chemistry II

CHEM 399: From Biosynthesis to Total Synthesis

CHEM 430: Advanced Organic Chemistry


My formal training is in the area of synthetic organic chemistry; however, my research interests have evolved over the last 20 years to utilize biochemistry, molecular biology, and analytical chemistry tools. I am interested in biosynthesis and anaerobic energy metabolism as targets for new anti-parasitic drugs. This is the theme of undergraduate research projects in my lab, and advanced topics courses that I teach. I also have a passion for art, and have integrated this with chemistry to develop an “Art and Chemistry” course for non-majors.

Allan, C. M.; Hill, S.; Morvaridi, S.; Saiki, R.; Johnson, J. S.; Liau, W-S.; Hirano, K.; Kawashima, T.; Ji, Z.; Loo, J. A.; Shepherd, J. N.; Clarke, C. F. “A conserved START domain coenzyme Q-binding polypeptide is required for efficient Q biosynthesis, respiratory electron transport, and antioxidant function in Saccharomyces cervisiae,” Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2013, 1831, 776-791.

Lonjers, Z. T.*; Dickson, E. L.*; Chu, T-P T.*; Kreutz, J. E.*; Neacsu, F. A.; Anders, K. R.; Shepherd, J. N. “Identification of a New Gene Required for the Biosynthesis of Rhodoquinone in Rhodospirillum rubrum,” J. Bacteriol. 2012, 194, 965-971.

Murphy, K.; Kubin, Z. J.*; Shepherd, J. N.; Ettinger, R. H. “Valeriana officinalis Root Extracts have Potent Anxiolytic Effects in Laboratory Rats,” Phytomedicine 2010, 17, 674-678.

Brajcich, B. C.*; Iarocci, A. L.*; Johnstone, L. A. G.*; Morgan, R. K.*; Lonjers, Z. T.*; Hotchko, M. J.*; Muhs, J. D.*; Kieffer, A.*; Reynolds, B. J.; Mandel, S. M.; Marbois, B. N.; Clarke, C. F.; Shepherd, J. N. “Evidence that Ubiquinone is a Required Intermediate for Rhodoquinone Biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum,” J. Bacteriol. 2010, 192, 436-445.

Paddock, M. L.; Flores, M.; Isaacson, R.; Shepherd, J. N.; Okamura, M. Y. “EPR and ENDOR Investigation of Rhodosemiquinone in Bacterial Reaction Centers Formed by B-branch Electron Transfer,” Appl. Magn. Reson. 2010, 37, 39-48.

(* indicates Gonzaga student author)

 Dr. Shepherd’s research seeks to elucidate the biosynthetic pathway of rhodoquinone (RQ) which will later be used as a target for the development of new anti-parasitic drugs.  RQ is an essential electron carrier used in the anaerobic energy metabolism of species such as the parasitic helminths, the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), and the purple non-sulfur bacterium, Rhodospirillum rubrum (R. rubrum).  RQ is not synthesized or used in humans and other mammals with a primarily aerobic energy metabolism.  However, RQ is structurally similar to ubiquinone (coenzyme Q or Q), an important lipid component involved in electron transport in the aerobic respiratory chain, and the biosynthetic pathways of RQ and Q are proposed to be similar. The biosynthesis of Q has been well-characterized in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic species.

Research Grants Funded

  1. “Elucidation and Regulation of Rhodoquinone Biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum,” National Institutes of Health, AREA R-15 program, $241,355, for award period: 8/1/11-7/31/15.
  2. “RUI: Purchase of a Liquid Chromatograph Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer,” National Science Foundation, CRIF-MU program, $286,753, for award period: 2/1/08-1/31/11.
  3. “CAREER: Rhodoquinone Biosynthesis and Anthelmintic Agent Design,” National Science Foundation, Division of Chemistry, $355,000 for award period: 9/01/02 – 8/31/07.
  4. “RUI: Acquisition of a 300 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer,” National Science Foundation, Division of Chemistry Instrumentation and Facilities, $133,795 for award period: 9/01/00 - 8/31/03.
  5. “The Biosynthesis of Rhodoquinone: A New Target for Anthelmintic Drug Design,” Research Corporation, Cottrell College Science Award, $42,738 for award period: 06/01/00 - 09/01/01. 

Recent Presentations with Gonzaga Undergraduates 

  1. 2017 Experimental Biology Conference (ASBMB Annual Meeting), Chicago, IL, April 22-25, 2017:
    (a) Shannon Babcock* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Elucidating the Biosynthetic Pathway of Rhodoquinone in C. elegans,” poster presentation.
    (b) Amanda Martin* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Determining the Rhodoquinone Biosynthetic Pathway in Rhodospirillum rubrum Using Gene Knock-outs, “poster presentation.
    (c) Alison Zander* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Overexpression and Characterization of the rquA Gene Product Involved in the Biosynthesis of Rhodoquinone,” poster presentation.
  2. 249th American Chemical Society National Meeting, Denver, CO, March 26-28, 2015:
    (a) Madeline Kuenzi* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Effects of deletion of the Rru_A3004 gene on rhodoquinone biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum,” poster presentation.
    (b) Benjamin Titus* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, "Analysis of rhodoquinone production in knockout strain candidates in Rhodospirillum rubrum," poster presentation.
    (c) Helen Xun* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Identification of Genes Involved in RQ9 Biosynthesis in C. elegans using RNAi Knockdowns,” poster presentation.
  3. 247th American Chemical Society National Meeting, Dallas, TX, March 17, 2014:
    (a) Adam Blount* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “The purification and characterization of RquA,” poster presentation.
    (b) Alysha Labrum* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Investigation of putative GATase genes for the rhodoquinone biosynthesis pathway of R. rubrum via gene knockouts,” poster presentation.
  4. Monica Schroll* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, “Identification of an amidotransferase gene required for rhodoquinone biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum,” poster presentation at the American Society for Microbiology Meeting, Denver, CO, May 18, 2013.
  5. Erin L. Dickson* and Jennifer N. Shepherd, "Characterization of a Putative Methyltransferase Involved in Rhodoquinone Biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum," poster presentation at the American Chemical Society 243rd National Meeting, San Diego, CA, March 26, 2012.