A fuller understanding of virtually all living systems at the molecular level has lead to revolutionary changes in the fields of chemistry and biology for it has rendered transparent the boundary between them. Exciting scientific advances are being made at the chemistry-biology interface where the application of chemistry’s analytic, measurement, and modeling techniques to biological phenomena has sparked research in genomics, metabolomics, and proteomics that has the potential to further elucidate biological systems and to mitigate human disease through the development of biomimetic sensors, diagnostic tools, new antimicrobials, and novel therapeutics.
Research teams working at the interface, clearly positioned to make major advances in biology and medicine, are comprised of scientists from many backgrounds including chemical biologists, biochemists, molecular biologists, organic chemists, and structural biologists. The key to their success is interdisciplinary training that allows each team member to learn a common language and to acquire a shared set of research skills without compromising their ability to acquire deep discipline-specific knowledge in specialized areas of chemistry or biology.
Through shared experiences in the classroom and in the laboratory, the Predoctoral Chemistry-Biology Interface (CBI) Training Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, aims to provide that training to a select group of graduate students. Funded in part by a Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Service Award from the National Institutes of Health (T32 GM070421), the CBI program is a collaboratively sponsored by the School of Chemical Sciences and the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. It is intended to enhance the studies of students enrolled in Chemistry, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Molecular and Integrative Physiology graduate programs.
Each spring, Admissions Committees in the participating departments interview prospective graduate students for the upcoming academic year. Of those offered admission, several students whose research interests are at the chemistry-biology interface are nominated for entry to the CBI program. Students who are then selected by the CBI Steering Committee to join the program will choose a research mentor from among 40+ faculty working at the interface, enroll in a series of specific courses, participate in sponsored seminars, help plan and host the Annual Symposium, and meet monthly with the Program Director while concurrently meeting and completing the degree requirements of their home department.
No matter their ultimate career goals, Illinois’ CBI trainees possess the breadth of education necessary to bridge the gap between the chemical and biological sciences. The trainees have been, and will continue to be, among those scientists making significant contributions to biomedicine as participants and leaders of multidisciplinary teams in industry, government, or academia.