Department of Chemistry



Biological Division


The Biological Chemistry division prepares scientists to address problems at the intersection of chemistry and biology by combining approaches from molecular biology, synthetic biology, cell biology with organic chemistry, physical chemistry and analytical chemistry to understand the molecular basis of biological processes and of human disease.

Students explore challenging questions using innovative approaches such incorporating new chemical functions into the genetic code, developing of methods to understand how epigenetic chromatin modifications alter transcriptional programming and cellular differentiation, quantitative measurements to understand the biochemical mechanisms of stroke, and the engineering signaling systems to understand and regulate cell behavior.  Students tackle these problems using interdisciplinary approaches that include unnatural amino acid technology, optogenetics, protein engineering, CRISPR-cas9 genome engineering, synthesis of photocaged biomolecules, protein crystallography, microdialysis/fast capillary liquid chromatography, fluorescence microscopy, EPR spectroscopy, protein crystallography and high-resolution mass spectrometry.

The groups working in these areas capitalize on excellent infrastructure and equipment for biological research in the department and are often associated or collaborate with the University’s School of Medicine, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Program, Bioengineering Department, Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology, Cystic Fibrosis Research Center, Hillman Cancer CenterThe Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology, and Drug Discovery Institute.

Biological Division Primary Faculty: Childers, Deiters, Islam, and Weber
Affiliated Faculty: Brummond, Chong, Coalson, Garrett-RoeFloreancig, Horne, H. Liu, X. Liu, Koide, Michael, Rosi, and Saxena

Research Areas

Chemical biology approaches such as diagramming epigenetic networks in cancer, developing optochemical tools for spatiotemporal control of biological processes, optical sensors for metals and cellular metabolites, investigation of glycosylations in bacterial infections. 
Labs: Childers, Deiters, Islam, Koide, and X. Liu


Synthetic biology approaches such as performing computations with DNA based logic gates to interface with cells, the design and implementation of engineered cell signaling systems, addition of new chemical functions to the genetic code of cells and organisms. 
Labs: ChildersDeiters, and Islam


​Bioanalytical chemistry approaches such as quantitative measurements of neurotransmitters in vivo by microdialysis/fast capillary LC and mass spectrometry proteomics to delineate the molecular basis of aging. 
Labs: Michael, and Weber


Biomaterials such as the design of peptide nanomaterials that template inorganic catalysts and soft materials with tunable properties through assembly of bio-inspired building blocks. 
Labs: Childers, Horne, H. Liu, and Rosi


Chemical Genetics such as pathway-based screen for DNA damage checkpoint inhibitors and inhibitors of microRNA pathways involved in cancer and viral infection. 
Labs: Brummond, Deiters, Floreancig, Islam, Koide, and Wipf


Biophysical Chemistry such as EPR, ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy (2D-IR) and molecular dynamics studies to understand protein conformational changes. 
Labs: Asher, Childers, Chong, Coalson, Garrett-Roe, Horne, and Saxena


Biological Chemistry Curriculum and Program Overview

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