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Research areas

The UCSF Chemistry and Chemical Biology Graduate Program offers six areas of research emphasis:

  1. Biological chemistry and synthetic biology
  2. Computational chemistry and biology
  3. Chemical synthesis and natural products
  4. Drug discovery and design
  5. Macromolecular structure and function
  6. Protein and cellular engineering

1. Biological chemistry and synthetic biology

Biological chemistry uses the techniques of biology, such as molecular biology, to understand how biological systems carry out chemical processes and how biological systems can be manipulated. Biological chemistry is crucial for identifying drug targets and understanding biochemical mechanisms and pathways.

Faculty members working in this area include:

2. Computational chemistry and biology

Computational questions in this area address predicting protein structure and folding, visualization of biomolecules and systems, prediction and analysis of interactions of biological molecules with drugs, small molecules and other biological macromolecules, predicting enzyme function from structure, and predicting protein network interactions. Huge improvements in computing hardware technology have enabled rapid advances in computational biology.

Faculty members working in this area include:

3. Chemical synthesis and natural products

The creation of new molecules is a backbone of the program. Faculty in this area use modern, multi-step syntheses to create complex, biologically active molecules. Often, the inspiration for these projects comes from natural products.

Faculty members working in this area include:

4. Drug discovery and design

In the continuum of chemical biology projects, there are often opportunities to develop new drugs or chemical probes. This is an especially important aspect of the chemical biology ecosystem at UCSF. Faculty in this area use methods such as structure-based design, fragment-based screening, tethering, computational drug design, high throughput screening, high content screening and phenotypic screens.

Faculty members working in this area include:

5. Macromolecular structure and function

Structure determination of biologically relevant macromolecules is a very strong focus of expertise at UCSF. Techniques include X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), electron microscopy, and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy.

Faculty members working in this area include:

6. Protein and cellular engineering

Nanomolecular design is a relatively new and growing research area that involves the engineering of biomolecules and nanoscale structures such as proteins, liposomes, and biomimetic architectures for functional nanomaterials. This area also includes the engineering of cellular systems, including self-assembly and development of complex tissue- and organ-like architectures.

Faculty members working in this area include:

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