Wei Chen's research interests focus on three main areas: 1) chemical immobilization of hydrophilic molecules on surfaces for improved biocompatibility; 2) preparation and applications of molecular gradient surfaces; and 3) a new reaction matrix - poly(vinyl alcohol) gels.
In addition to independent research grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Petroleum Research Fund, Chen has several joint grants from the National Science Foundation. One grant, for 2 million, in collaboration with faculty from the University of Massachusetts and other area colleges allows Chen to integrate polymer science into the traditional chemistry curriculum and explore the interdisciplinary field with undergraduate students in her research laboratory. Four other joint instrument grants have been used to purchase a collection of equipment for surface preparation and analyses: an X-ray photoelectron spectrometer, an Atomic Force Microscope, a Scanning Electron Microscope, and photolithography equipment. The specialized equipment is available for use by Mount Holyoke students and faculty for classroom and independent study and research.
The author or coauthor of numerous scientific articles, Chen has been an invited lecturer at the American Chemical Society, the World Polymer Congress, the Pacifichem and colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. With two of her student researchers, Chen filed for a U.S. patent for surface modification of solid phase objects by poly(vinyl alcohol) in 2002.
Chen teaches Quantum Mechanics, Chemical Thermodynamics, Experimental Methods, General Chemistry, and Polymer Chemistry. Known as a demanding and dedicated mentor, Chen insists that all of the students who work in her lab do productive research and publish their findings.