Research Training in Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Investigator: Charles S. Craik, PhD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Location(s): United States


The UCSF Chemistry and Chemical (CCB) Training Program trains scientists to apply chemical approaches to biological problems. Graduates of this program earn doctoral degrees and become influential leaders in industrial and academic biomedical research and other fields. Such skilled scientists are needed to solve problems related to all areas of health and disease.

The goal of this Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) predoctoral training program is to foster research that uses chemical strategies to understand and control fundamental biological processes. The program is distinctive in that its orientation is to study of molecules in living systems from a chemical perspective. The program provides a rich venue for chemical research as it interfaces with biology by bringing together 44 investigators and resources from seven departments at UCSF. The research has direct relevance to national priorities in human health and addresses central problems in chemical biology including, molecular recognition, protein folding, biomolecular structure prediction and determination, signal transduction, protein trafficking, computer aided drug and protein design, synthetic chemistry, high throughput screening, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, systems biology and quantitative approaches to measure cellular signaling. These studies use systems, ranging from bacteria to humans and encompass technologies including chemical synthesis, crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and computational modeling. Annually, approximately 9 students are enrolled annually from about 100 applicants after a rigorous application process that culminates in personal interviews. Under-represented minority students now represent 22 percent of students. Under-represented minority candidates are actively sought in an extensive series of programs including the Science Education Partnership and an undergraduate Summer Research Training Program. Program components include:
1) rigorous didactic courses;
2) lab rotations in three different labs;
3) oral presentation by students on each lab rotation;
3) oral presentations of scientific information and hypotheses defense via tutorial training with faculty in a journal club setting;
4) an intensive oral qualifying exam;
5) individual thesis research and finally;
6) a dissertation seminar.
The student to faculty ratio in the program is approximately 1 to 1 and is supported by small faculty to class size ratios. A lively course on Ethical Conduct of Science is mandatory. An extremely vigorous and high-quality weekly seminar series in which recognized leaders in the field of chemical biology present their most recent research, supplement the training. Ample time is provided for interaction with the speakers in one-on-one meetings with interested students in an informal setting. Trainees also have a seminar series for presenting their research to CCB students and faculty. Our 44 faculty members are extremely dedicated to graduate training. This multidisciplinary research training is carried out within an intellectually integrated and well-equipped collection of member labs, and within a uniquely collaborative, interactive and communicative research environment. Expansion into the new Mission Bay campus has greatly strengthened the program by providing state of the art chemistry and chemical biology lab space.