Graduate Program

First Year Graduate Student Cohort Fall 2017

Ph.D. Program in Chemistry

The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department offers three graduate degrees: the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), a thesis master of science (M.S.), and a coursework M.S. The Ph.D. and thesis M.S.programs are designed to help students develop into independent scholars while pursuing the excitement of scientific research in a personal, supportive environment. Both the Ph.D. and the research M.S. programs prepare students for careers in academia, industry, government laboratories, and other settings requiring an advanced education in chemistry and related disciplines. The coursework M.S. does not require research and is suited to future teachers and others wishing to update or broaden their chemical expertise. Approximately 100 graduate students are currently enrolled in the graduate program. NoteApplications for the Research Thesis path Master's degree are not being accepted at this time.

Within the Ph.D. program students have the flexibility to design a course of study focused on personal research interests, and at the same time are expected to maintain the high intellectual standards associated with the doctoral degree. Research options include biochemistry, physical chemistry, biophysical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, materials chemistry, physical-organic chemistry, and bioorganic chemistry.

Collaborative research efforts are encouraged, both intra- and inter-departmentally. The interdisciplinary Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering emphasizes bioinformatics, nanotechnology, and computational approaches to chemistry. Biochemists join geneticists, computer scientists, and biologists in the Center for the Molecular Biology of RNA. The Program in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering fosters interdisciplinary research between the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Departments of Molecular, Cell and Development Biology; Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology; and Biomolecular Science and Engineering.

Graduate Student Spotlight

Jocelyn Macho

I am a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz in the Chemistry doctoral program. The aims of my research project are centered around exploiting NP-34, a novel, boron-containing natural product isolated from marine Streptomyces (an Actinobacteria which is used as source for antibiotics for humans), to both discover the target receptors in mosquitos of toxins and to pinpoint the most potent, mosquito-selective analog to employ in “greener” pesticides. This natural product exhibited selective toxicity to mosquito cells. Preliminary data demonstrated an 80% kill rate at 50 nm against mosquito cells and selective over moth, fly, and human cells. Thus, using click chemistry, we plan to expose mosquito-specific vulnerabilities. We are also in the process of both isolating and synthesizing various analogs of NP-34 for structure-activity relationship studies to determine maximum efficacy of our compound.

I decided to go to graduate school as I have always had the desire to teach, and since high school I have known that I wanted to be a professor. Being a first-generation college student and also a Hispanic student, I wanted to serve as an inspiration for younger students, to show that you are not bound by the modifiers “first-generation” or “minority.” I have also always wanted to make an impact in human health. My mother is diabetic and disabled, and watching her struggles throughout my entire life inspired my efforts to make an impact in the health community. I decided that through research in the biomedical realm I could help shape the medical world through pharmaceuticals. I chose UC Santa Cruz so that I could work for Dr. John MacMillan, whose work focuses on exploiting the biological activities of marine-derived natural products. With my work in graduate school I believe that in the future I will impact the field of natural products and help develop target-selective and effective medications, using not only my own work in the laboratory, but also by being a teacher and mentor for future scientists to do the same.

  Overview of requirements and timeline to degree

 Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences & Engineering

Students interested in chemical biology and biophysical chemistry are encouraged to apply to the graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering. PBSE is an interdisciplinary and collaborative effort that brings together expertise from the departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry; Molecular, Cell & Developmental (MCD) Biology; Biomolecular Engineering (BME); and Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology (METX).  Highlights of PBSE include a broad choice of research laboratory rotations, journal clubs and a targeted seminar series--all in a collaborative environment.  Applicants to PBSE choose from three tracks:

  1. Biomedical Engineering and Bioinformatics - Multidisciplinary bioinformatics training and research in comparative and functional genomics, non-coding RNA discovery, protein bioinformatics and structure prediction.
  2. Chemical Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics (CB3) - Exploration of biological systems at the molecular and mechanistic levels, using biophysical methods and the tools of synthetic organic chemistry to examine biomolecules and their functions.  Most PBSE participants with a background in chemistry will follow this track.  Also for those with an interest in environmental toxicology.
  3. Microbial Biology and Pathogenesis - Prepares students for careers in microbial biology research and teaching.  Approaches: biochemistry, genetics, genomics, ecology, imaging
  4. Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology - Cell biology, chromosome biology, developmental biology, genomics, microbiology, neurobiology and RNA molecular biology.

For more information, consult the PBSE website. To apply click here.

To learn more about degree requirements and the Chemistry graduate programs in general, please see the Graduate Handbook.

Questions on the graduate program? Email

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