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Research

Our department’s intellectual strengths include very collegial and high quality faculty, vibrant research on the forefront of science, expanding research facilities, and the integration of both graduate and undergraduate education into our research endeavors.

Chemistry and Biochemistry is traditionally divided into four subdisciplines, biochemistry/biophysical, physical, organic/bioorganic, and inorganic/bioinorganic. A distinctive characteristic of our department is the extensive collaboration among faculty in the different subdisciplines and across departments and divisions, blurring the traditional boundaries and allowing researchers to address a given problem with an arsenal of specialized synthetic, instrumental, and computational strategies. The main strengths of the department lie in the areas of Materials and Biomedical Research, with many faculty being associated with both of these research initiatives.

Explore our faculty’s research expertise by discipline:

Materials Science
The Materials Research Initiative aims to advance specific energy, sensing, and environmental applications. The main focus areas include the design, synthesis, and characterization of novel nano-materials, and novel polymers, and new classes of inorganic materials with unique properties. The goal is fundamental understanding of the properties of these materials and applications in energy conversion, cancer detection, biomedical imaging, the development of new materials to avoid environmental contamination, catalysis, separations, and remediation of environmentally hazardous pollutants.

Browse our faculty experts:

Inorganic/Bioinorganic

Portrait of Timothy Johnstone
My research exploits the unique reactivity of inorganic compounds, particularly those from the p-block of the periodic table, to combat human illness and disease.
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My research group focuses on environmental applications of materials. We are developing new materials for cleaning polluted water, recycling plastic and reducing energy consumption through new catalysts.

Organic

Portrait of Rebecca in the redwoods
I investigate synthetic organic chemistry approaches to develop new materials for applications in nanotechnology, the polymer industry, and biomedicine. My specialties are nitroxides and internal plasticization of PVC.

Physical/Theoretical

Photo of Alex Ayzner in front of two redwood trees. Lab windows are visible in the background.
I am a physical chemists interested in understanding the influence of molecular and macromolecular structure of small-molecule and polymeric organic semiconductors on the efficiency and dynamics of light harvesting.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Ilan Benjamin
My research is focused on the theoretical study of the microscopic dynamics of chemical reactions in the condensed phase. This includes chemical reactions in bulk solution and at surfaces.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Shaowei Chen
I research functional nanomaterials and develop new electrochemical energy technologies.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Yat Li
I design and develop novel materials for applications in catalysis, energy conversion, and energy storage.
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My research interests focus on developing and employing theoretical and computational techniques to solve problems related to energy conversion and quantum information applications.
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I study electronic structures of materials and how they interact with light using theoretical tools. My research focuses on the development of ab initio quantum chemistry methods for large systems, especially periodic solids, as well as their applications in drug development, renewable energy, and catalysis.
Professor Zhang standing outside in front of trees.
I design, synthesize, and study novel nanostructured materials for energy conversion and biomedical applications using ultrafast laser and other techniques.
Biomedical Science
The Biomedical Research Initiative aims to advance our molecular understanding of human disease, as well as to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Research focuses on various human pathologies, including cancer, neurodegenerative, metabolic, and inflammatory diseases. This fundamental research into the molecular basis of human disease is complemented by drug screening and discovery of therapeutic compounds from natural (marine) organisms and through synthesis.

Browse our faculty experts:

Bioanalytical

Laura Sanchez in front of redwood trees
I study mass spectrometry, small molecule communication, natural products, microbial communities, cancer

Biochemistry/Biophysics

Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Ilan Benjamin
My research is focused on the theoretical study of the microscopic dynamics of chemical reactions in the condensed phase. This includes chemical reactions in bulk solution and at surfaces.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Ted Holman
My research team investigates how lipoxygenases are involved in inflammation. Specifically, we interrogate the mechanism, inhibition, and lipidomics of lipoxygenase activity to develop therapeutics for stroke, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
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I study the structure and function of RNA-protein complexes, electron cryo-microscopy, biochemistry and biophysics, image processing.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Glenn Millhauser
I use biophysical methods to study neurological proteins, their cofactors, and how misregulation contributes to disease.
Photo of Carrie Partch in front of a building surrounded by trees
I seek to understand the molecular basis of biological timekeeping by studying circadian rhythms from a diverse array of organisms. We use biochemistry, structural biology, and cell-based approaches to study protein structure, dynamics, and function.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Seth Rubin
I study biochemical mechanisms underlying control of cancer cell proliferation. My research uses structural biology, biochemistry, and cell biology approaches to understand protein function and regulation.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Michael Stone
My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of telomere length control using single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) and micro-manipulation techniques, such as magnetic trapping.

Inorganic/Bioinorganic

Portrait of Timothy Johnstone
My research exploits the unique reactivity of inorganic compounds, particularly those from the p-block of the periodic table, to combat human illness and disease.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Pradip Mascharak
My bioinorganic research group is interested in the roles of metal-containing active sites of metalloenzymes and in design and applications of metallodrugs in tackling infection, inflammation, and malignancies.

Organic

Photo of Phil Crews standing outside in sunglasses and a cap.
My research is on novel biologically active molecules from marine invertebrates and marine derived microorganisms. We discover chemotypes that are the basis for the design of new medicines to treat human diseases.
Photo of Scott Lokey in front of redwood trees
Many drug candidates are limited by their inability to cross biological membranes. My research uses natural products as guides in the design of complex, membrane-permeable molecules as next-generation therapeutic agents.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry John MacMillan
I research and discover natural products from bacteria with promising biological activity. I utilize the microbial and chemical diversity of marine habitats and information-rich screening to integrate chemistry and biology.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Shaun McKinnie
My research uses a combination of synthetic organic chemistry, enzyme biochemistry, and microbial genetics to understand how bacteria, plants, and other organisms make biologically active and potentially therapeutic molecules.
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I study chemical neuroscience using mirror-image peptides and other D-amino acid substitution strategies to create novel structure-function relationships to understand Amyloid Beta toxicity in Alzheimer's Disease.
Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Bakthan Singaram
My work focuses on the chemistry of metals and metal hydrides. I’m specifically interested in developing green chemistry for carbon-carbon bond forming reactions and the reduction of functional groups.

Physical

Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Research Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry David Kliger
My research involves time-resolved spectroscopy and polarization spectroscopies to study mechanisms of protein folding and function, and applying them to a wide range of photochemical, photophysical, and photobiological problems.