Student FAQs

About the Chemical Biology Division | Faculty & Staff | Student FAQs


The Chemical Biology Division enjoys an active seminar program in conjunction with those of the other divisions in the Chemistry Department. Each year’s program features a diverse range of speakers from industrial and academic organizations who visit Gainesville to present their latest research results in a formal seminar. In addition, appointments are always reserved so that interested graduate students can meet each speaker in a relaxed and informal environment. In addition, seminar programs organized by other divisions in the Chemistry Department often bring researchers with interests in biochemistry to Gainesville. Finally, students and faculty from the Chemical Biology Division often attend seminars sponsored by other departments in related fields such as genetics, biophysics, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, etc.

How do I join the Chemical Biology Division?

Students who want to join a group in the Chemical Biology Division for graduate studies should contact the Departmental Graduate Admissions Committee (Chair, Ben Smith, (352) 392-0256; All application forms are available online. Students are admitted to the Chemistry Department, after which they choose a research group. The process of choosing a research director takes place during the first semester of graduate studies and includes ample time to meet with a range of faculty before making a final decision.

Do I have to major in biochemistry to join a group in this division?

No! In fact, many of the students who currently work in the Chemical Biology Division have declared majors in other areas, particularly organic and physical chemistry. There is substantial scientific overlap between the research that goes on in the labs in different divisions, so it is natural that students who qualify in different divisions work alongside one another in the same group. Having a mixture of approaches and backgrounds is an important component of a productive research group. In this way, students can learn about new scientific areas from their peers, and these interactions often lead to innovative solutions to tough research problems. It is an interesting coincidence that none of the faculty in the Chemical Biology Division majored in this area as graduate students. In fact, all of them graduated from programs in chemistry!

What if I haven’t taken any biochemistry courses yet?

If you are presently an undergraduate, you are urged to take at least one semester of biochemistry if it is offered at your school. If this is not possible, and you are interested in learning about biochemistry, there are a number of introductory biochemistry classes at Florida that will get you up to speed.

What if my background is mainly in biology?

Students with a strong biology background are encouraged to apply to the Chemical Biology Division. A number of our current students have come from a biology background, and have learned the chemical aspects of biochemistry after coming to Florida. As already noted, it is important to have students with diverse backgrounds for a productive research group.

How much would I be able to interact with other researchers at Florida?

Within the Chemistry Department. There are a number of collaborative research projects and informal interactions involving faculty and students in other divisions of the Chemistry Department. These include members of the Quantum Theory Project and several groups in the Organic Division. These collaborative efforts allow groups to combine their strengths, while at the same time introducing students to a variety of experimental approaches to solving chemical problems.

With other groups on campus. The Chemical Biology Division of the Chemistry Department is part of a network of biochemical research at the University of Florida. The Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research (ICBR) provides core facilities for many specialized techniques including monoclonal antibody production, DNA synthesis and sequencing and protein expression, synthesis and analysis. These cores are available to all research groups at Florida and provide valuable research support. Our Division also has close ties to the Departments of Medicinal Chemistry, Oral Biology, Pharmacology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology that are part of the J. Hillis Miller School of Medicine, also located on campus. The interests of the medical school research groups are complementary to those of the Chemistry Department, with the former focusing mainly on questions of cell and molecular biology. Members of the Chemical Biology Division also interact with several centers, most of which are located on campus. The Center for Structural Biology provides infrastructure to support investigations in protein and nucleic acid structure including microscopy, NMR and crystallography. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory involves faculty from both U.F. and F.S.U. and supports research in several areas including high-field NMR, EPR and mass spectrometry.

With groups outside of the University. All members of the Chemical Biology Division collaborate extensively with groups at other universities, often in other countries. These relationships take advantage of unique expertise and facilities located outside U.F. and also provide valuable experiences for students who are exposed to new methods and styles of research. Details of these collaborations can be found by consulting the home pages of individual faculty members.

What meetings do students and faculty attend?

Learning to effectively communicate the results of research is one of the most important skills learned in graduate school, and students are provided with a variety of opportunities to discuss their work.

Local. Graduate students and post-doctorals from all research groups are encouraged to present a poster describing their work during the departmental Research Affiliates meeting, held annually in January or February. This meeting provides a chance for students to meet with representatives of companies that support the Department and often hire our graduates.

State. The Florida American Chemical Society meeting is held annually in May in Orlando and this attracts approximately 150 oral and poster presentations, many of which are given by U.F. graduate students. This provides an excellent forum to learn effective presentation skills and also gives students a chance to meet their counterparts in other Florida universities in a relaxed, collegial atmosphere.

National and international. As they near the completion of their thesis research, most students in the Chemical Biology Division attend one or more national or international scientific meeting (national ACS meeting, ASBMB, Gordon Research Conferences, etc.). These meetings feature presentations at the highest levels and our students are well-prepared to participate fully.

Are there enough choices of research projects?

The Ph.D. is primarily a research degree, and a wide choice of research projects is an important part of choosing a graduate school. The research interests of the four groups in the Chemical Biology Division span a wide range and include aspects of theory, organic chemistry, spectroscopy, molecular biology and the rapidly expanding field of molecular diversity and combinatorial chemistry. A few of the current research topics are:

  • Chemistry and biology of zinc
  • Characterization of novel proteins involved in ceramide metabolism
  • Characterization of membrane bound hormone receptors
  • Theoretical studies of enzyme mechanisms
  • Computer modeling and rational drug design
  • Enzyme inhibitor design and synthesis
  • Kinetic isotope effects
  • Enzyme mechanisms
  • Structural biology
  • Protein engineering, folding and design
  • Nucleic acid chemistry, synthesis and design
  • Molecular diversity and combinatorial chemistry
  • Molecular evolution
  • Synthesis of novel amino acids and peptidomimics
  • Molecular recognition
  • Design of biologically active molecules
  • Re-engineering antibodies by combinatorial library approaches
  • Biotransformations
  • Catalytic antibodies
You can find a more complete listing of research topics on the web pages of the individual research groups.