chemical biology stanford

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

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This article also contain related information on, Chemical Neuroscience, Chemical Microbiology, Molecular Imaging, Cancer Immune Therapy, Rare Diseases and Unmet Medical Needs, Molecular Dynamics, Systems Chemistry and Systems Biology, Nucleic Acids Chemistry and Biology and a lot more in this article. Stay with

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Billions of years of chemical evolution on our planet have created a chemical library of immense size and diversity – the Earth’s chemome. Scientists at Stanford are leading research directed at translating this library, creating fundamentally new knowledge about the origins and workings of life, and how molecules, molecular assemblies and metabolic pathways contribute to the chemistry and biology of living organisms. From the structure and function of molecules within a cell to the interaction of cells within an organism and inter-organismal biochemistry, this research is providing new insights into normal and abnormal biological function, and with that, new strategies for the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases.

The Stanford Chemistry Department’s strong emphasis on biological and medicinal chemistry positions us well to build on a remarkable history of major achievements in the life sciences, and to lead in advancing research that will transform human health and medicine. Medical, life science and chemical biology research at Stanford is driven by an integrated, multi-science, translational approach that contributes to the ongoing success of Silicon Valley. This including a diverse array of exceptional multidisciplinary centers, institutes, and training programs including Bio-X, ChEM-H, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Neurosciences Institute, the Comprehensive Cancer program, Nano Center, Canary Center for Cancer Detection, Biotechnology Training Program, and VirX Center.

Chemical Neuroscience

Stanford chemists are engineering molecules inspired by natural neurotoxins to study and modulate neuronal activity, and designing nanostructured materials on which networks of neurons can be grown and interrogated. New technologies for drug delivery developed by our faculty are being directed to unmet needs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, neuropathic pain and other neurological disorders.

Layla Lang - Chemical Biology Symposium

Chemical Microbiology

Stanford chemists have developed new methods for analyzing the chemical and physical properties of bacterial biofilms and for imaging microbial structures at ultrahigh resolution. Our ongoing work toward elucidating the mechanistic details underlying microbial natural product biosynthesis has already led to new therapeutic and diagnostic modalities.

Molecular Imaging

Stanford chemists are developing new tools, theories and analytical procedures that allow one to “see” molecular events in living systems in real time with atomic level resolution.

Cancer Immune Therapy

Stanford chemists are making critical contributions toward new modalities of cancer immune therapy. We are developing small molecules, biotherapeutics, and hybrid bioconjugates that modulate tumor immunogenicity and immune cell activity. These new approaches could be transformative in our treatment of previously intractable tumors.

Drug Delivery

Stanford chemists are developing new vectors to transport molecules including drugs, imaging agents, peptides, proteins, DNA, and RNA across biological barriers including cell membranes, blood brain, ocular, skin and lung barriers. This includes the delivery of mRNA, opening new opportunities for therapeutic vaccinations, protein replacement therapy and gene editing.

Stanford University - Bass Biology Research Building | Flad Architects

Rare Diseases and Unmet Medical Needs

Stanford chemists are taking on the difficult challenge of developing therapeutic approaches for rare diseases that strike small patient populations and are therefore largely neglected by the pharmaceutical industry. These include new interventions for celiac disease as well as congenital disorders of proteostasis. At the same time, they are addressing unsolved problems such as the eradication of HIV/AIDS and treatments for a range of neurological disorders.

Molecular Dynamics, Systems Chemistry and Systems Biology

Stanford chemists are developing new computational tools and theories that allow atomistic dynamic simulations of complex chemical and biological systems that enable understanding of living systems with molecular level resolution. These approaches will make it increasingly possible to peer into and understand normal as well as abnormal cell function, to track the course of molecules in living systems, and to design new molecules to prevent, detect or treat disease.

Nucleic Acids Chemistry and Biology

Stanford chemists are developing probes and methods for measuring and manipulating the biological function of RNA and DNA and the enzymes that interact with them. Stanford computational chemists are also developing powerful simulation methods to predict the structure of RNAs.

Synthetic Biology

Stanford chemists are designing new DNA bases and novel genetic sets to encode biological activity in cells. Stanford chemists are also altering biosynthetic pathways to produce new biologically active natural products.

Chemical Biology Stanford

The Department of Chemical and Systems Biology is committed to providing academic advising in support of graduate student scholarly and professional development. When most effective, this advising relationship entails collaborative and sustained engagement by both the advisor and the advisee. As a best practice, advising expectations should be periodically discussed and reviewed to ensure mutual understanding. Both the advisor and the advisee are expected to maintain professionalism and integrity.

Faculty advisors guide students in key areas such as selecting courses, designing and conducting research, developing of teaching pedagogy, navigating policies and degree requirements, and exploring academic opportunities and professional pathways.

Graduate students are active contributors to the advising relationship, proactively seeking academic and professional guidance and taking responsibility for informing themselves of policies and degree requirements for their graduate program.

For a statement of University policy on graduate advising, see the “Graduate Advising” section of this bulletin.

What is the overall purpose of faculty advising in this program?

The Department of Chemical and Systems Biology is committed to providing advising to ensure graduate student personal, academic, and professional development. Both the advisor and advisee are key players in sustaining a collaborative relationship with integrity and professionalism.

How are advisors initially assigned to or selected by incoming graduate students?

Graduate students select a thesis advisor generally at the end of Spring Quarter of their first year. Before selecting an advisor, students rotate in one lab per quarter during Autumn through Spring quarters of their first academic year. Students may opt for a fourth lab rotation and select an advisor in the Summer Quarter before their second year. After each rotation, students meet with the CSB Advisory Committee to discuss how the rotation went and whether the next rotation is a good match for the student’s educational and professional goals. With the guidance of the CSB Advisory Committee and assistance from the student services staff, if needed, the student and thesis advisor mutually agree to work together.  

What is the process by which students can change advisors and when should this happen?

The student should approach the CSB student services office and the CSB Advisory Committee to discuss the reasoning and proposal to change advisors. The student should work with the  student services office and CSB Advisory Committee to try to find a suitable advisor. This process should happen as soon as issues start to arise and/or as soon as the student would like to change advisors.

How frequently should students meet with their advisors and how are those meetings set up? How does meeting frequency change as the student progresses?

As mentioned above, at the end of each quarter, first-year students meet with the CSB Advisory Committee to discuss potential issues with the program, issues with host laboratories, classes, the qualifying exam, and career planning. The topics that are discussed include ideas about student activities as well as additions or changes to the program. Students are also encouraged to meet with the CSB Advisory Committee members or the Department Chair individually if any issues come up throughout the year.

Committee meetings are held once a year after the qualifying exam. When a student is in their fifth year, the committee meetings should be held twice a year. From the sixth year and on, the meetings should be held every quarter.

What topics might be discussed at advising or committee meetings?

Committee meetings are the best opportunity for the student to get feedback about the progress and to get second opinions about which types of experiments should be pursued to help answer the questions being addressed in the student’s thesis. The committee should include four faculty members counting the thesis advisor (faculty on the committee do not need to be tenure track). At least one of the four faculty members has to be a primary faculty in the CSB department, but the composition can be different from that in the qualifying exam and can also change during the student’s thesis work as they may need to pursue different directions. The structure and format of the meetings are listed below. The committee should provide advice on future directions, attendance of conferences, career plans and more personal laboratory issues. Each meeting should include a time plan to ensure that the thesis project can be completed within five-and-a-half years.

At the beginning of each meeting, the student exits the room to allow for a discussion between the advisor and the rest of the committee. A few minutes before the end of the meeting, the advisor is asked to leave the room to allow for the student and the rest of the committee to discuss issues about the lab, potential personal issues, training opportunities and to discuss possible differences in research goals or issues relating to authorship.

If a committee meeting is not completed by the end of Summer Quarter, an enrollment hold is placed on the student’s account and may delay graduate funding.

Are there any forms to complete or deliverables associated with any of those meetings?

Following the committee meeting, the student is required to summarize the discussion and formulate a revised plan for subsequent work. This summary should be discussed with the advisor and sent to the committee members within one week for comment. A final copy of the report must be submitted to the CSB Student Services Manager.

How and when does a student select and convene their dissertation reading or thesis committee? What is the purpose of the committee? And, how often should the committee meet?

Students select their reading committee when they go TGR, which is usually towards the end of their fourth year in Spring Quarter. The purpose of the committee is to further discuss the student’s thesis and provide feedback. As mentioned above, committee meetings are held once a year after the qualifying exam. When a student is in their fifth year, the committee meetings should be held twice a year. From the sixth year and on, the meetings should be held every quarter. 

How does the department or program, advisor, and student decide when a student is ready to graduate?

The decision to schedule an oral defense requires the support of each member on the committee including the thesis advisor. The department also expects that each student complete for the thesis at least one peer-reviewed, first-author paper that is accepted for publication by the time the oral thesis exam is being scheduled.

Who else might a student consult for help or guidance, e.g., department chair, DGS, student services staff?

At any time, students may consult with CSB student services staff, the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Chair. Students may reach out to any of these parties by email to set up a meeting and/or stop by the student services office.

Our department is founded on the principle that solving today’s biomedical challenges requires understanding biology at the molecular and systems levels. What are the functions of individual genes and the proteins they encode? How do they act in combination to regulate cellular and organismal behaviors? And how can we use chemical, genetic, and computational tools to investigate these biological mechanisms in entirely new ways?

Now is an exciting time to tackle these important questions. We can sequence and edit genomes, profile proteomes, and visualize the activities of single molecules. We can construct new compounds and proteins essentially at will, creating new biological functions. Our challenge is to transform this knowledge and these capabilities into mechanistic understanding—and ultimately to translate our scientific discoveries into advances in human health. Our faculty and students strive to achieve these goals, using cutting-edge molecular and quantitative methods. Our laboratories tackle a diverse range of biological problems, including those related to cell cycle control, genomic stability, epigenetic regulation, mitochondrial function, chemotaxis, cell differentiation, and immune responses.

We welcome you to explore this website and learn more about our department—the first in the world to combine chemical biology and systems biology. In addition to pushing the boundaries of basic science, we seek to train a new generation of interdisciplinary scientists, who are uniquely empowered to address our most challenging biomedical problems. If this vision resonates with you, we invite you to apply to CSB and join our vibrant and collaborative research community.

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