Biochemistry combines faculty members from the Department of Biology, Department of Biophysics, Department of Chemistry, and the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics.


Modern biophysical and biochemical research involves applying quantitative analysis and instrumentation to complex problems in biology. Training biophysicists and biologists to tackle these problems using a quantitative framework is a major component of the graduate program in Cell, Molecular, Developmental Biology, and Biophysics, with roughly 25 faculty members actively engaged in biophysical and biochemical research. This research is supported by facilities on the Homewood campus housing state-of-the-art instrumentation for x-ray crystallography, NMR, molecular hydrodynamics, fluorescence spectroscopy, and biocalorimetry.

Research in biophysics in CMDB includes studies of protein and nucleic acid structure; analysis of macromolecular interactions including protein-ligand, protein-protein, and protein-nucleic acid interactions; studies of RNA and protein folding; and structure-based drug design.

Cell Biology

Modern cell biology is a highly integrative discipline in which a wide array of methods and experimental systems are used to discover the molecular bases of the fundamental cellular behaviors that are critical to the survival of all cells and organisms.

In the CMDB program, students tackle questions at the forefront of the field in the areas of membrane trafficking, the cell cycle, nuclear organization, cellular motility, and signaling, in systems as diverse as cultured cells, mice, Drosophila, and yeast. CMDB graduate students learn to approach these problems using biochemical, genetic, and molecular biological methods, in conjunction with the cutting-edge microscopy methods that have historically been the hallmark of devotees of the cell.

Developmental Biology

One of biology’s most exciting challenges is to understand how a single cell, the fertilized zygote, can give rise to an entire new organism. This process involves the differentiation of a large array of cell types that must be organized with an intricate architecture to create a functioning adult. The same mechanisms that control development are also critical in human disease, and our understanding of many disease processes, and disease genes, stems from first understanding their role in development.

Research in the developmental biology section of the CMDB program encompasses many of the essential questions currently being addressed in this field. A wide range of genetic, molecular, and cell biological approaches are being used to study these questions. These include the sophisticated imaging, large-scale genomics, and cross-species comparisons that are possible with today’s advanced technology and bioinformatics resources.

Molecular Biology

Molecular biology is the foundation for much modern biological research. This research is advancing rapidly with improved genome sequencing and microarray technologies. Currently, research in molecular biology and genetics is carried out in many labs of the CMDB program. Areas of study include synthesis, structure, and function of proteins and nucleic acids, gene expression and its regulation, chromosome structure and function, and developmental genetics. Biological systems include viruses, bacteria, yeast, Drosophila, C. elegans, and mice.