Many exciting research problems in science today lie at the interfaces between disciplines. The interface between chemistry and biology is particularly rich, and numerous research groups in the Chemistry Department at UW-Madison have substantial efforts that interweave ideas from chemistry and biology to solve important problems. Our faculty is helping to define this evolving approach to science, and accordingly, UW-Madison is one of the strongest centers for research at the chemistry-biology interface in the world.


Chemistry-biology interfacial research at UW-Madison is exceptionally broad in scope, extending from the spectroscopic study of protein structure and folding in vitro and in the cell, to the design and synthesis of organic compounds that bind and modulate the function of specific biopolymers, to to the in vivo imaging of cellular events, to the high resolution study of molecular crowding in the cellular environment, to the construction and use of high density DNA arrays for data storage and retrieval, to the study of polypeptide aggregation mechanisms, and to the development of new polymeric vehicles for drug delivery.


In general, research groups are either developing new experimental and spectroscopic techniques to characterize biomolecules and biological phenomena, synthesizing compounds and materials with novel biological activity, or combining both of these approaches in their laboratories. As this type of research is inherently collaborative, many faculty have joint projects with other members of the Chemistry Department and with researchers in other departments on the UW-Madison campus. In our interactive environment, sharing specialized equipment and facilities, and continually exploring new research opportunities across campus is standard practice for both faculty and students.


Active research areas include:

  • Mechanisms of in vitro and in vivo protein folding by time-resolved fluorescence and multidimensional NMR
  • Chemical glycobiology
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analyses
  • Synthesis of small molecule and macromolecular tools to study cell-cell signaling
  • Elucidation of protein-, nucleic acid-, carbohydrate-, and small molecule-protein interactions with biophysical and chemical tools
  • Design and synthesis of protein and receptor mimics ("foldamers")
  • Computational approaches to protein structure and function
  • Spectroscopic study of biomolecular structure, including but not limited to NMR, IR, resonance Raman, EPR,and mass spectrometry techniques
  • Cell-cell signaling in prokaryotes and eukaryotes
  • Multi- and monolayer assembly of biomolecules at surfaces
  • New polymeric materials for gene and drug delivery
  • Natural product biosynthesis and metabolic pathway engineering
  • Enzyme mechanism and synthesis of enzyme inhibitors
  • Integration of biological molecules with novel materials for nanoscale chemical sensing and bio-electronic integration
  • Whole genome "shotgun" optical mapping
  • Development of new chemical and instrumental approaches to biological mass spectrometry at the single cell level
  • In vivo fluorescence and single molecule dynamics