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Chemical Biology for Sophomores

Research Summary

Alanna Schepartz proposes to significantly alter the undergraduate course of chemistry study at Yale to provide early, hands-on exposure to one of the fastest-growing areas of modern chemistry: chemical biology. She will create a pair of year-long courses—Chemical Biology and Chemical Biology Laboratory—that begin in the second semester of the sophomore year. This pair of courses will serve several purposes. First, they will illustrate to undergraduates, early in their careers, that chemical biology is an exciting, dynamic, and expanding field. Second, these courses will add depth and breadth to the ability of students to comprehend and apply biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. Third, and perhaps most uniquely, they will demonstrate that the pursuit of knowledge through creative and rigorous research—the work that scientists actually do—is intellectually satisfying and fun.

The lecture course will provide a sophisticated survey of the field, with case studies and articles from primary literature. The laboratory course will be open-ended and research-driven, with publications, presentations, and summer research. An essential component of both courses will be close contact between undergraduates and graduate student mentors, many of whom will be women. The chemical biology option represents an extraordinary opportunity to improve the statistics of women in chemistry by providing undergraduates with early, positive experiences in science and graduate students with early, positive mentoring experiences. Dr. Schepartz anticipates that 60 undergraduate students and 20 graduate students will participate each year.

Research in the Schepartz Lab

Schepartz's research reflects broad interests within the field of chemical biology. Our lab seeks to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that control interactions between proteins, trafficking of peptide mimetics, and the process of compartmentalization in living cells. Our approach is to develop new chemical, biophysical, and optical tools that control, manipulate, or mimic protein assemblies inside the cell, and use them to interrogate biology in ways that would otherwise be impossible. Current topics include the development of miniature protein parts for the synthetic biology toolkit, the use of cell-permeable small molecules to monitor sophisticated protein function, the development of alternatives to protein-based therapeutics, the design of catalytic, protein-like β-peptide assemblies that are entirely devoid of a-amino acids, and the development of lipid-based orthogonal intracellular compartments.

Last updated May 2014

Scientist Profile

HHMI Professor
Yale University
Chemical Biology