Miriam Rossi, PhD

Professor Emerita of Chemistry
Person in a red shirt and blond hair smiling outside with trees and mountains in the background.

Miriam Rossi was born in Italy and emigrated with her parents to New York City. She received a BA in chemistry from Hunter College, working in the laboratory of Professor David Beveridge, and a PhD in inorganic chemistry from Johns Hopkins University, working with Professors Tom Kistenmacher and Luigi Marzilli. She was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Jenny P. Glusker at the Fox Chase Cancer Center before joining the faculty at Vassar College, where she has risen through the ranks to full Professor. She is dedicated to both research and teaching of chemistry.

Miriam’s primary research interest is to use X-ray crystallography in the study of the relationship between the structure and function of small biological molecules. Many are natural plant products that show anti-tumor activity; others are strong food antioxidants such as curcumin and resveratrol. She has published on the antioxidant activity of Italian and California extra virgin olive oils. She continues to collaborate with researchers from Italy, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, India and Thailand. Her work includes other Vassar faculty members: Stuart Belli, Eric Eberhardt, Sarjit Kaur, Christopher Smart and Kate Susman as well as many Vassar undergraduates. She now has close to 200 publications in leading international and national journals, achieving a h-index of 42.

She is active in several professional societies (American Chemical Society, American Crystallographic Association, and Sigma Xi) and is a member of the International Union of Crystallography Commission on Education.


Research Interests

  • Synthesis and structural characterization of metal complexes produced using natural products. These are then tested for effectiveness against disease states such as anti-tumor, anti-viral, and anti-trypanosomal activity.
  • Structural characterization of natural products found in plants, fruits or vegetables and having beneficial health effects such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents. Examples include flavones; chalcones; coumarins; hispolons; essential ingredients in spices; non-essential amino acids (citrulline); ellagic acid; embelin.
  • Characterization of a beneficial mechanism of action shown by food constituents or food products such as ethnopharmacological products, olive oil, and chocolate.
  • Understanding the role of molecular structure and the chemistry of aging in making dried and aged foods such as Parmesan cheese and prosciutto di Parma.
  • Basic understanding and characterization of weak intermolecular interactions that have eluded characterization as seen through electron density results obtained using high-quality X-ray diffraction data.
  • Understanding the role of metal complexes in paint products used during Renaissance and Medieval periods.


Selected Publications

Protection by extra virgin olive oil against oxidative stress in vitro and in vivo. Chemical and biological studies on the health benefits due to a major component of the Mediterranean diet. PLoS ONE 12/2017; 12(12):e0189341., DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0189341

Ruthenium-arene complexes of curcumin: X-ray and density functional theory structure, synthesis, and spectroscopic characterization, in vitro antitumor activity, and DNA docking studies of (p-cymene)Ru(curcuminato)chloro. J Med Chem. 2012 Feb 9;55(3):1072-81. doi: 10.1021/jm200912j.

The structure of a B12 coenzyme: methylcobalamin studies by x-ray and NMR methods. Journal Of The American Chemical Society, (1985) 107 (6) 1729-1738 doi:10.1021/ja00292a046

A structural and computational study of citrulline in biochemical reactions. Structural Chemistry 07/2017; 28(4)., DOI:10.1007/s11224-017-0996-x

The in vitro antitumor activity of arene-ruthenium(II) curcuminoid complexes improves when decreasing curcumin polarity. Journal of inorganic biochemistry 06/2016; 162., DOI:10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2016.06.002

The plant-derived chalcone 2,2′,5′-trihydroxychalcone provides neuroprotection against toll-like receptor 4 triggered inflammation in microglia. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 01/2016; 2016(3):1-10., DOI:10.1155/2016/6301712

Correlation between DFT calculated and X-ray structures from CSD, for Cu(II) and Cu(I) coordination spheres when coordinated to four acyclic amine ligands. A reconsideration of copper(II) planarity. Journal of Coordination Chemistry 11/2014; 67(23-24):3932-3939., DOI:10.1080/00958972.2014.964222

Antioxidant Properties of Thymoquinone, Thymohydroquinone and Black Cumin (Nigella sativa L.) Seed Oil: Scavenging of Superoxide Radical Studied Using Cyclic Voltammetry, DFT and Single Crystal X-ray Diffraction. Antioxidants (Basel). 2023 Mar 1;12(3):607. doi: 10.3390/antiox12030607. 


Grants, Fellowships, Honors, Awards

Grant for ‘Progetti coerenti con il Tema di EXPO Milano 2015 “Nutrire il pianeta, Energia per la vita” CUP n. F83D15000160009’ from Regione Lazio, Italy (2015)

Fulbright Senior Scholar Award (2008)

The Mary Landon Sague Chair in Chemistry (2000)

Mid-Hudson ACS Texaco Research Award (1993)