Research Training in Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Investigator: Charles 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 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 51 investigators and resources from seven departments and three research institutes at UCSF. The research has direct relevance to national priorities in human health and training the workforce and addresses central problems in chemical biology including, molecular recognition, biomolecular structure prediction and determination, protein design and engineering, signal transduction, protein trafficking, computer aided drug 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, electron microscopy, mass spectrometry and computational modeling. Approximately 10 students are enrolled annually after a rigorous application process that culminates in personal interviews. The number of applicants has steadily increased to over 230 applicants in 2016. Under-represented minority students now represent 18 percent of current students. Under-represented minority candidates and candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds 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 and a hands on training course; 
2) lab rotations in three different labs; 3) oral presentations 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 class size to faculty 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 graduates are well published and highly sought after in academia and industry. This trans- disciplinary 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.