Biochemistry Research Areas

The faculty in the Department of Biochemistry maintain strong research programs and have access to excellent support facitilites and stimulating interactions with campus-wide research focus groups. Our faculty members are leaders in basic research in several dynamic areas of modern biochemistry with their primary focus on macromolecular structure and function of the major biopolymers -- proteins, DNA, RNA, and oligosaccahrides.

Research activities are focused primarily on the study of the structure and funtion of the major biopolymers. Major research areas include:


  • Structure/function of metalloenzymes and membrane proteins using macromolecular crystallography, organic and inorganic synthesis, and spectroscopy (Chan)
  • Functional motifs involved in protein/receptor binding, zinc-binding and phosphorylation (Brooks)
  • Protein engineering and biophysical analysis of insecticidal toxin (Dean)
  • Protein and nucleic acid structure and dynamics, molecular recognition, signal transduction, enzyme catalysis, computational methods, NMR methodology (Foster)
  • Investigation of protein stability, structure and function using combinatorial and statistical approaches as well as unnatural amino acid mutagenesis (Magliery)
  • Substrate Recognition by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases; RNA-Protein Interactions in HIV (Musier-Forsyth)
  • Characterization of macromolecules including protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid complexes, membrane proteins and glycosylated proteins by means of modern NMR spectroscopy (Wu)
  • Applications of peptide and protein chemistry including native chemical ligation and semisynthesis to address biological problems including nuclear protein transport (Ottesen)
  • Oligosaccahride and glycoprotein biochemistry; natural products synthesis (Wang)
  • Structure and function of ribonuclease P, an enzyme which has both RNA and protein moieties (Gopalan)
  • Nitric Oxide (NO) chemistry (Means, Wang)
  • Protein engineering of protein-flavin interactions and the regulation of redox properties (Swenson)
  • Biochemical processes on the femtosecond timescale (Zhong)


  • X-ray crystallography (Chan)
  • NMR Spectroscopy - Protein structure and dynamics, macromolecular interactions (Foster)
  • NMR Spectroscopy - Membrane proteins, methodology (Wu)
  • Protein chemistry - Chemical modification, peptide synthesis, protein semisynthesis (Ottesen, Means)
  • Protein engineering - structure and function, molecular evolution, protein design, incorporation of unnatural amino acids (Brooks, Dean, Magliery, Swenson)
  • Glycobiochemistry - Oligosaccahride synthesis and structure, Antibiotics (Wang)


  • Metalloenzyme mechanisms (Chan)
  • Mechanistic studies of viral and repair DNA polymerases (Suo)
  • Electron transfer mechanisms in flavoenzymes including cytochrome P450 reductase (Swenson)
  • Mechanistic enzymology and enzyme kinetics in the study the molecular mechanisms of tRNA processing enzymes (Jackman)


  • Mechanism of protein synthesis in chloroplasts and mitochondria (Breitenberger)
  • Mechanism of the multi-component gene switch that regulates 10 genes (GAL genes) that specify galactose utilization functions in the yeast (Hopper)

Our faculty participate in a variety of Ph.D.-level graduate programs and provide excellent opportunities for training to be an independent research scientist in any of the above general areas. Several options for obtaining research training leading to a Master's degree in basic or biotechnology-related research are also available.

Undergraduate biochemistry majors are also encouraged to undertake independent research projects and experience the excitment of participating in the acquisition of new knowledge. Please refer to the links on the "Biochemistry Research" and elsewhere to obtain further information.