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Chemistry of Life

The department stands at the forefront of human health technologies, including medical chemical engineering

Life ultimately translates as a series of complex and interrelated chemical reactions — and modern chemical engineering reflects this fact. We are developing techniques for practicing medicine at the molecular level, with the promise of breakthroughs that

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We are engineering virus-like particles as protective mechanisms for the next generation of flu vaccines, as delivery systems for cancer treatments, and as the building blocks of tests for detecting tumors. Our faculty and students are developing hydrogels that could be employed as human cornea replacements and as scaffolding for tissue repair and replacement. We are designing flexible organic electronics that could be used to create functional electronic skin or deployed as sensor arrays for disease diagnosis.  

Much of our work centers on the refined understanding of cellular processes. We are investigating how motor proteins use chemical energy to generate force and motion within cells, and we are exploring the physics of protein self-assembly. Our researchers are modeling DNA-involved biophysical processes, and are manipulating mammalian cells to explicate the role of gene expression in genome instability, cancer, and aging. 

We are studying how microorganisms in the gut and the mucosal cells that line the intestines work together to influence health. We are unlocking the mysteries of protein self-assembly, and we are examining the implications of intercellular forces in cell development and disease progression.

By deepening our understanding of the fundamental processes of life, we can help improve human health. The department remains committed to both of these missions.

Prof. Elizabeth Sattely

Beth's research group uses a multidisciplinary approach combining chemistry, enzymology, genetics, and metabolomics to tackle problems include new methods for delignification of lignocellulosic biomass and the engineering of plant antibiotic biosynthesis.

Prof. Alex Dunn

Alex is interested in understanding the complex relations between physical forces and cellular behavior and his research group focuses on understanding how living cells sense mechanical stimuli, with particular interests in stem cell biology and tissue engineering.