Chemistry Biology Interface

The emphasis of the Program is cross-training at the interface of chemistry and biology with a synthetic and mechanistic focus. To achieve this goal, students fulfill the following academic requirements of the program and participate in a variety of cross-disciplinary activities:

  1. Students fulfill an elective research rotation in the laboratory of a participating faculty member of the other discipline in the Spring Quarter of their first year of graduate study.

    By the beginning of the Spring Quarter of the first year of graduate study, students will have completed at least six graduate courses, providing a firm basis for selection of elective courses and elective research rotations. This is thus a suitable opportunity for CBI students to fulfill the requirement of an elective research rotation in the laboratory of a faculty member in the other department. Since students in the Department of Chemistry fulfill a departmental requirement as teaching assistants during the first year of graduate study, the Department of Chemistry relieves the first-year chemistry graduate students selected into the CBI Program of the requirement to serve as teaching assistants in the Spring Quarter to allow accommodation of the elective research rotation. On the other hand, since BMB students fulfill teaching assistant requirements after their first year of graduate study, there is no conflict of TA responsibilities and CBI Program requirements.

  2. BMB students complete two elective chemistry courses, and Chemistry students complete two BMB courses.

    Since the academic requirements of the BMB and Chemistry Ph. D. programs of graduate study each accommodate (and require) elective courses to be fulfilled satisfactorily, completion of this CBI training requirement is readily incorporated into each student-trainee's curriculum. In the Spring Quarter while fulfilling the requirement of a cross-training research rotation, both BMB and Chemistry students appointed to the CBI program will have the opportunity to register for the first of two cross-training courses in the other department. The second course elective is generally completed during the second year of graduate study. See a list of cross-training courses.

  3. A faculty member of the CBI Training Program is appointed as a co-advisor for each student to work in close consultation with the primary Ph. D. research advisor upon completion of candidacy requirements.

    In each case the CBI co-advisor to be appointed will be from the other discipline. The co-advisor follows the progress of the student and helps the student, together with the primary Ph. D. advisor, in making an optimal choice of the second cross-training elective course. Since candidacy requirements are generally completed by the end of the Fall Quarter of the second year of graduate study, this arrangement will ensure that each CBI student-trainee will have had full opportunity to fulfill requirements of the CBI Training Program prior to beginning the second year of CBI training grant support. This mechanism for cross-training helps to maintain uniformity in the program for all students and ensures completion of cross-training requirements by the end of the two-year period of CBI training grant support. At this point students are generally well entrenched in full-time Ph. D. research.

  4. CBI students attend the monthly integrative luncheon seminar "Discussions at the Interface of Chemistry & Biology."

    While this series of monthly seminars was expected to serve only students during active CBI training grant support, students continued attendance voluntarily after termination of active CBI grant support, perhaps because this was the only mechanism by which graduate students from the BSD and the PSD interacted and discussed science on a regular, sustained basis. The presence of older, more experienced students additionally is beneficial in highlighting problems encountered in adapting chemical and biological approaches to research projects, providing a medium through which students had greater opportunity to learn "to speak the language" of the other discipline, engendering through their interaction an attitude of participation in and creation of a new type of science, and enabling heightened sensitivity and awareness of challenging conceptual and technical problems at the interface of chemistry and biology. In short, this lunch-time seminar series enables students to function optimally in a cross-disciplinary environment and to gain confidence in their ability to work on problems that cannot be readily classified according to classical definitions.

    While most of the seminars are given by CBI students, we also integrate into this series discussions on how to prepare for and apply for post-doctoral fellowships, how to apply for post-doctoral positions, and how to weigh the pros & cons of industrial vs. academic appointments. Traditionally each year, this series of monthly meetings has been opened by the co-directors of the CBI Training Program with news relating to the Training Program and perspectives on new advances in the field. In addition, the last meeting of the academic year is traditionally devoted to a discussion by a recent CBI graduate who has successfully started a postdoctoral appointment to speak on his or her perspectives of preparing fellowship applications and evaluating postdoctoral opportunities.

  5. The CBI faculty are engaged in a wide spectrum of activities with student-trainees not only during active training grant support but also throughout continuation of Ph. D. research.

    There are multiple avenues of meaningful interactions between CBI faculty and student-trainees that will serve to provide close mentoring to ensure optimal progress for each student and helpful guidance in their development into independent scientists. All CBI students will have completed at least one elective research rotation in the laboratory of a participating faculty member of the other department. All CBI student-trainees will have registered in at least one and possibly two courses taught by CBI faculty members during the first two years of graduate study. Not only will CBI students have selected a primary Ph. D. research advisor but also a CBI co-advisor will be assigned from the Steering Committee to work closely with the student and the Ph. D. research advisor to ensure that all training requirements are fulfilled. Not infrequently, it is also expected, because of the multiple cross-collaborative interactions amongst the faculty, that the collaborating faculty member in the other department will become a close, secondary research advisor for the student. In addition, the membership of the Steering Committee is changed on a rotating basis, ensuring that all CBI faculty have an opportunity to give direction. Through fulfillment of these responsibilities, CBI faculty will need to interview applicants and meet periodically with students in the program to monitor and evaluate academic progress. Finally, CBI faculty will participate in the monthly luncheon discussion series according to their scientific interests.

  6. CBI students select invite and host a seminar speaker from outside the university who during his or her visit to The University of Chicago spends the day visiting those laboratories to which CBI students belong.

    In addition to the speaker meeting with CBI students and their respective research advisors during the day, CBI and other interested graduate students meet with the speaker during lunch and later for dinner at the end of the day. All arrangements are made by CBI students with the assistance of the departmental staff administrator for the training grant. The seminar accommodated within the weekly seminar programs of either the Chemistry or the BMB departments.

  7. The `Annual Minisymposium at the Interface of Chemistry & Biology' is organized by the Steering Committee and held in the Fall Quarter within the framework of the weekly departmental seminar programs of either Chemistry or BMB.

    Each year the Steering Committee selects the CBI research groups (generally 4) to be represented. A CBI student from each lab provides a 15 - 20-minute powerpoint presentation of his or her research results followed by a 5-minute overview of the on-going research projects by the CBI faculty member. The seminar held in the Fall Quarter serves to highlight the CBI Program to first year graduate students in the Chemistry and BMB Departments who may be interested in applying to the Program. Also CBI students are keen to present research results at a departmental seminar.