Where Chemistry and Biology Meet

The Chemistry Department at Franklin and Marshall College has a strong history of research that seeks to illuminate the atomic and molecular world.

In applying this molecular view to living things, biological chemistry seeks greater understanding of the mechanisms of life itself.

Biological chemists delight in the intricate molecular circuitry of cells, the complex mechanisms of organic chemistry, the beauty of biological structure, the dynamic exchange of metal ligands, the informational capacity of DNA, the fine detail of molecular spectroscopy, the intricate architecture of biopolymers, and all the complexity and diversity of the natural world. 



By its very nature, biological chemistry is a collaborative venture between scientist of many different backgrounds. Beyond F&M, we engage in active research with scientists at:

• SUNY Stonybrook

• Penn State

• Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

• UC Berkeley

• Advanced Photon Source (Argonne National Lab)



  • biochem

Biological Chemistry at F&M 

What is Biological Chemistry?

All chemists seek to understand the world of atoms and molecules. Biological chemists have a special interest in the molecules of life, namely proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, lipids, metabolites, and the various metal cofactors and small molecules that are necessary for the chemistry of living things. A distinctive feature of biological chemistry is that it draws from all the chemical disciplines. Sub-disciplines of biological chemistry include bio-organic chemistry, bioinorganic cheistry, biophysical chemistry, analytical biochemistry, clinical chemistry, even astrobiology. The training of biological chemists is broad-based, as the chemistry of life transcends disciplinary boundaries and requires a wide range of skills. 


What do Biological
​Chemists do?

Biological chemistry runs the gamut from research on the origins of life to development of new drugs to combat human disease. An undergraduate degree in biological chemistry is excellent preparation for the pharmaceutical industry, the food and cosmetic sector, agriculture, any of the health professions, clinical research, or basic science research in a very large number of associated disciplines including Biology, Chemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Public Health, Ecology, Environmental Sciences, and many more. Biological chemists can be found anywhere that biology and chemistry intersect, from NASA to Novartis, from research hospitals to field stations.

Biological Chemistry at F&M

Biological chemistry here at F&M is a dynamic area of active research. New projects are developing all the time, and there are many student-led research projects that are currently active. We are developing vibrational probes to test the role of water in the establishment and dynamics of protein structure. We create synthetic amino acids in the chemistry lab and introduce them into fully functioning proteins. We investigate the ways in which microorganisms involved in bioremediation sense the presence of the pollutants they detoxify. We design and synthesize molecules that will allow us to control biochemical reactions with light. We investigate the mechanisms by which malaria parasites control and remodel the red blood cells they infect. Beyond F&M, we work with colleagues at institutions public and private, in the mid-Atlantic and beyond. 


F&M offers a strong program in contemporary biological chemistry research. The resources available to students and faculty allow us to keep pace with the fast-changing state of the art in modern biochemistry. We have access to all the standard equipment required to produce and purify recombinant proteins, we have extensive connections to the US network of national laboratories to provide access to synchrotron radiation, we have the high-field NMR required to synthesize and assess bioactive molecules, access to multi-wavelength gel scanners, facilities for the use of radioisotopes, plate readers and LC-MS for analysis of biochemical reactions, inert atmosphere workstations for anaerobic biochemistry, capability for high-resolution IR and Raman spectroscopy and circular dichroism, and a close relationship with Biology for support with microscopy, bioinformatics, tissue culture and proteomics.

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