arrow10 Comments
  1. Carmen Drahl
    Apr 25 - 6:29 pm

    It’d probably be interesting to compare how different chemical biology journals seem to define the discipline based on what they publish. Good luck on the intellectual journey..

  2. Curious Wavefunction
    Apr 25 - 6:38 pm

    That’s a nice question. I think one of the things that distinguishes chemical biology from say biochemistry as traditionally defined, is that chemical biologists usually use synthetic organic molecules to interrogate biomolecular structure and function. Biochemists have traditionally been more interested in studying biochemical systems through physical and genetic manipulation. But most people we know who are the forefront of chemical biology (Schreiber, Schultz, Shokat, Bertozzi, Liu etc.) seem to come from a chemistry background and are adept at using synthetic molecules to study biological systems.

  3. David Kroll
    Apr 26 - 2:28 am

    Dare I say that the discipline of pharmacology was the original “chemical biology.”

    Remember that father of American pharmacology, John Jacob Abel, founded the Journal of Biological Chemistry. In the day, much of what was in there could be considered chemical biology under today’s definition.

    One might say that chemical biology is more akin to biochemical pharmacology than in vivo pharmacology but chemical biologists will test the outcomes of their biochemical dabblings in whole animal models.

    I’d add Brent Stockwell at Columbia (a Schreiber trainee) as a great example of a chemical biologist.

  4. AJ
    Apr 27 - 12:50 am

    Hi – Im a biochemistry undergraduate student and I have now concluded that Chemical Biology is the field for me (likewise as yours)! However, since my degree is more focused towards molecular biology than chemistry itself – how would I be able to get into this field, for instance a postgraduate oportunity that equip me with the required chemical knowledge! I would appreciate your help and will definitely keep track of this blog :)
    All the best.

  5. Sidechain Bob
    Apr 27 - 7:24 pm

    Hi AJ! Great to hear that you’re interested in Chemical Biology. You should certainly keep checking out the blog over the next couple months. I’ll probably be posting along with each blog a review article or two to get you started on a subject in chemical biology.

    If you want some more chemical/synthetic experience, I would suggest either talking to a professor at your undergraduate university and doing some research, or applying for an REU program (see my previous post on where to find them!) to learn more about chemical research over the summer. You could also take some time off before grad school and work in a lab. Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions.

  6. Mitch
    Apr 28 - 6:44 pm

    I do a lot of chemistry and biology but I would never call myself a chemical biologist. in vivo chemist perhaps. I don’t really work with cells or pathways, just whole animals.

  7. iter
    May 01 - 6:17 pm

    I’m currently in high school, about to enter the first year of a physical science degree in the UK. There is an option to take the biological route in my course, however, and I’ve been seriously considering it!
    As for chemical biology, my starting point – although this requires quite a bit of background reading on my part before I can understand as much as I would like – is the Nature Chemical Biology 5th anniversary issue (see It’s an article surveying developments in the field in the recent years, followed by a collection of essays by chemical biologists just starting up.

  8. Sidechain Bob
    May 02 - 8:20 pm

    Hi Iter!
    That’s a great issue, and I will certainly be drawing from it for ideas. They did a really excellent job in rounding up some cool, diverse research. Look for it in subsequent posts

  9. Ian Ainslie
    Jul 27 - 2:41 pm

    Good reading. All the best with your trip into knowledge furtherment (?!)
    Maybe at this stage, you’ve got an update on your findings?

  10. Tristan
    Aug 31 - 4:03 am

    I agree with you 100% that (these days) “Chemical Biology means probing biological systems with chemical agents”. As opposed to biochemistry, which is the study of the chemistry that occurs naturally in living cells. Studying Biochemistry with synthetic probes (such as I do), by extension I guess would then be chemical biochemistry, but that just sounds silly.
    Shopping around for grad schools is something to look forward to; you get meet some of the smartest people in the world and they’re all trying to convince you to come to their school.
    Nature chembio is indeed a good journal, make sure to check out their newest issues too (monthly), to see what the various big names have been upto lately.
    I’m in the “Chemical Biology Graduate Program” at UC Berkeley, which is not a stand-alone program but rather something you apply to after being admitted into one of the affiliate departmental graduate programs (I’m in Chemistry; most CBGP students are Chemistry or MCB, but occasionally there is someone from Bioengineering or Chemical engineering). Really all it means (in addition to being in your departmental program) is that you get to do rotations, have a virtually limitless range of lab choices and get to interact with other people excited about chembio over sandwiches. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

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