The goal of the biophysical chemist is to provide physical explanations for the ways in which important biological systems function. Techniques needed to reach this goal are drawn from many disciplines including chemistry, physics, and biology. Spectroscopic tools such as NMR spectroscopy are combined with diffraction methods to define molecular structure at an atomic level. Electronic structure of active sites is probed with optical, vibrational, and EPR spectroscopies. The time course of catalyzed processes is followed by time-resolved laser spectroscopy along with traditional kinetic methods. Functional models are tested by altering macromolecular structure using the techniques of molecular biology and organic synthesis. Ultimately, processes and structures may be modeled with computer programs that incorporate our best understanding of the electronic structure of the biomolecular building blocks.
The systems under study at Yale are many. They include the structure and dynamics of enzymes and membrane-associated proteins, the structure of the nucleic acids and nucleic acid-protein complexes that control replication and gene expression, the active centers in metalloproteins, the assemblies that are responsible for energy and signal transduction in processes such as photosynthesis and vision, studies of protein-ligand binding interactions, and computer modeling of protein structure and denaturation pathways. These detailed studies aid in understanding the basic biological processes and impact such diverse fields as drug discovery and de novo design of proteins.
Faculty associated with the biophysical chemistry program in the Chemistry Department are listed in the following section. They constitute the most immediately accessible members of the much wider biological science community within which the graduate students in our field associate. This community encompasses the Departments of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (MB&B), Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB), and several departments in the Yale School of Medicine. Our association with MB&B is especially close, as there is a jointly sponsored Chemistry-MB&B training program in Biophysics.