Chemistry + Chemical Biology

Chemistry is the study of the basic structural units of matter—what things are made of, what their properties are, and how they act and interact.

Chemical biology applies logic and methods from chemistry to the study of complex and challenging questions in biology. To a significant extent, interest in chemical biology has been inspired by the growth of the biotechnology industry.

Learn more about our undergraduate degree programs.

Qualities and Skills of a Chemist

  • Creative, Methodical, Analytical And Precise
  • Careful, Patient and Detail-Oriented
  • Communication and Quantitative Skills (PUL*)
  • Excellent Observational Skills
  • Excellent Time Management Skills
  • Mechanically-Inclined
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving (PUL*)
  • Professional Values and Ethics (PUL*)

*PUL = Principles of Undergraduate Learning define a set of abilities and skills that undergraduate students are expected to master. They reflect the expertise that graduate and professional schools and the workforce are seeking.

Why Study Chemistry?

Chemistry plays an integral role in today's scientific endeavors. As science has become increasingly interdisciplinary, fundamental scientific problems focus on the chemical nature of matter.

The habits developed through the study of chemistry and chemical biology are ones that will serve you for a lifetime. Scientific research requires not only evidence and logic, but also honesty, creativity, patience, and openness to new ideas. The problem-solving and reasoning skills you develop, as well as an increased understanding of science, will provide a great foundation for approaching any type of work and engaging your community.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Chemistry?

Students with B.A. or B.S. degrees in chemistry go on to a variety of professional callings. In addition to graduate work in chemistry, biochemistry, medicine, or other health-related disciplines, the department's graduates find their broad scientific training useful in fields such as business management and law.

Here's what our 2014 graduates are doing with their degrees:

  • Analytical Chemist for Roche Diagnostics (BA)
  • Associate Analytical Chemist for Covance (BA)
  • Automation Technician for Dow AgroSciences (BA)
  • Chemist for Pace Analytical (BS)
  • Chemistry Instructor for Ivy Tech Community College (PhD)
  • Lab Technician for Eli Lilly (BA)
  • Lab Supervisor for Indiana State Dept of Toxicology (PhD)
  • Lead Chemist for Haynes International (MS)
  • Method Developer for AIT Bioscience (MS)
  • Quality Control Technician for Alcon (BS)
  • Research Scientist for IU School of Medicine (BA)
  • Research Technician for IU School of Medicine (BS)
  • Senior Research Scientist for Vertellus, Inc. (MS)
  • Chemistry and AP Physics Teacher for Lawrence Township (MS)

43% of our graduates went on to graduate or professional school and are currently enrolled in the following programs:

  • Secondary Education at Ball State University (MA)
  • Pharmacy at Butler University (Pharm D)
  • Optometry at Illinois College of Optometry (OD)
  • Public Health at IUPUI (MPH)
  • Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine (MD)
  • Physcian Assistant at IUPUI (MPAS)
  • Pharmacy at Manchester University (PharmD)
  • Chemistry at Purdue University (PhD)
  • Medical Chemistry at SUNY Buffalo (PhD)
  • MD/PhD at University of Michigan (MD/PhD)
  • Pharmacology at University of Illinois (PhD)

Where Do Chemistry Majors Find Jobs?

Many chemistry graduates pursue careers that make direct use of their chemistry training. Other chemistry graduates pursue careers that make use of their analytical and technical skills. A degree in chemistry can also provide an educational foundation for admissions to professional schools or to advanced degrees in fields such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, law, business, engineering, etc.

  • Biotechnology Firms
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Engineering, including Robotics
  • Environmental Protection Organizations
  • Federal Agencies, including NASA and Center for Disease Control
  • Forensic laboratories
  • High Schools
  • Hospitals and Other Health Care Facilities
  • Industrial and Research Laboratories
  • Industries related to petroleum, coal, wood products, plastics, textiles, paint, fertilizers, pesticides, food, industrial organic and synthetic chemicals, mining, electronics, electrical, nuclear, gas, heat, or light energy, paint, cosmetics
  • Information Technologies
  • Law Firms
  • Medical Research Firms
  • Pharmaceutical Research Firms
  • Pharmaceutical Supply Companies
  • Publishing Firms, including Books, Scientific and Research Journal
  • Scientific Libraries
  • Waste Management Firms

IUPUI chemistry grads have been employed by:

  • Eli Lilly & Co.
  • Marion County Health Department
  • Indiana Department of Environmental Management
  • Indiana University
  • Roche Diagnostics
  • Dow Agrosciences
  • Covance Laboratories
  • Kelly Scientific Services
  • Purdue University

IUPUI chemistry grads have been accepted for post-graduate study at:

  • Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine: Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
  • Harvard University: Biological and Biomedical Science Program
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  • IU School of Medicine
  • New York University: Medical Scientist Training Program (M.D./Ph.D.), 
  • Purdue University, W. Lafayette

Occupational Outlook + Average Salary

Employment for chemists is expected to grow by 3% for the 2008-2018 decade. Graduates with a master’s degree or a PhD will experience better opportunities, especially at larger pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. (2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Salaries earned by chemists are dependent on degree level and whether they are employed by industry, government or academia. According to the most recent survey by the American Chemical Society, the overall median salaries by degree are the following:

  • BS: $72,600
  • MS: $82,000
  • PhD:$101,000

According to the May 2012 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for Indiana, average salaries for biologists were as follows:

Adventures in Aminooxy Land

The chemoselective condensation between aminooxy (RONH2) and carbonyl groups is highlighted in several projects.  The seminar will present our efforts to prepare novel aminooxy reagents as well as our recent aminooxy-based approaches aimed at exploiting the carbonyl-targeting properties.   Specific projects to be discussed include the design and use of a silicon micropreconcentrator for analyzing exhaled breath to screen for lung cancer and the results of our studies on electronic cigarette aerosols.  Just how safe is vaping?

Using Insights from Organic Chemistry Students to Teach and Assess Mechanistic Reasoning

For over a decade my co-workers and I have been interested in helping students learn and reason with mechanisms using the electron-pushing formalism. For the first decade we studied problem-solving by graduate students seeking Ph.D. degrees in organic chemistry. More recently, our focus has been on the experiences of students in sophomore-level organic chemistry courses, especially the second half, Organic Two, where mechanisms are more emphasized. Our research in this area has included strategies and modes of reasoning used by individuals while working on electron-pushing tasks. Using inferences from the research participants’ observations and challenges, I will share some of our thoughts on teaching and assessing mechanistic reasoning. 

Allosteric Regulation of Receptor Interactions of Syk tyrosin kinase

Protein interactions of protein tyrosine kinases are fundamental to their function in signaling. My research group has focused on understanding the tight relationship between function and protein-protein interactions, including the regulation of Syk association with membrane immune receptors.  This seminar will focus on our efforts to define an unusual allosteric mechanism of regulating Syk binding to immune receptors. 

The phosphorylation of a linker region between two tandem SH2 domains of Syk tyrosine kinase regulates the binding affinity for Syk association with ITAM regions of membrane receptors; affinity for receptor mediated by the Syk SH2 domains decreases more than 100-fold upon phosphorylation of the remote tyrosine site on linker A. The mechanism of this allosteric regulation has been suggested to be a switch from a high‑affinity bifunctional binding, mediated through both SH2 domains binding two phosphotyrosine residues, to a substantially lower‑affinity binding of only one SH2 domain.

Nonetheless, this postulated switch to a single-SH2-domain binding mode was recently refuted by NMR experiments. Instead, we find the allosteric mechanism for inhibiting binding by tyrosine phosphorylation is fully driven by entropy, with essentially no enthalpic compensation.  The structural basis for this unusual regulatory mechanism was explored by molecular dynamics computer simulations and these results will also be described.

Marine Alkaloid Derivatives that Reverse Phenotypic and Genotypic Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance and the rise of antibiotic resistant pathogens are threatening the vast strides we have made over the past century in human medicine.  To combat the threatening tide of multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria, we have been exploring the use of small molecules based upon naturally occurring nitrogen-dense marine natural products to serve as adjuvants for antibiotic treatment regiments.  The talk will detail our efforts to develop small molecules that inhibit and disperse bacterial biofilms both in vitro and in vivo, and the application of knowledge gained through mechanistic studies to identify additional small molecules that are able to reverse both acquired and intrinsic resistance in MDR pathogens.

Folding- and Dynamics-based Electrochemical Biosensors

This seminar will cover our recent advances in the design and fabrication of folding- and dynamics-based electrochemical biosensors. These devices, which are often termed electrochemical DNA (E-DNA), aptamer-based (E-AB), and peptide-based (E-PB) sensors, are fabricated via direct immobilization of a thiolated and methylene blue (MB)-modified oligonucleotide or peptide probe onto a gold electrode. Binding of an analyte to the probe changes its structure and/or dynamics, which, in turn, influences the electron transfer between the MB label and the interrogating electrode. These sensors are resistant to false positive signals arising from the non-specific adsorption of contaminants, and perform well even when employed directly in whole blood, saliva and other realistically complex sample matrices. Furthermore, because all of the sensing components are chemisorbed onto the electrode surface, they are readily regenerable and reusable. Our results show that many of these sensors have achieved state-of-the-art sensitivity, while offering the unprecedented selectivity, reusability and operational convenience of direct electrochemical detection.  

IMS-MS as a Means of Revealing New States During the Melting of Proteins

One of the most challenging problems in biochemistry involves understanding how proteins fold.  After more than 50 years of work, experimental characterization of protein folding usually leads to results which are described as a cooperative, two phase, transition between the folded and unfolded states – i.e., the protein appears to melt. Here we present new data from an IMS-MS analysis of simple proteins that are electrosprayed from a temperature controlled source. The results suggest that the cooperative two state behavior involves other states that are captured in the IMS-MS analysis.  In some examples, we find evidence for at least 10 structures that arise at slightly different transition temperatures.  The ability to experimentally capture information about new states that are involved in folding and unfolding events may help guide theoretical efforts to model folding processes.

Antiviral Polyamides Active Against High-Risk Human Papillomavirus; A New Mechanism for Polyamide Action

We began an anti-human papillomavirus (HPV) program inspired by Dervan1 and Sugiyama's2 work with hairpin pyrrole-imidazole polyamides. Targeting the Long Control Region of the doubled-stranded circular DNA genome of HPV, we originally hoped to block binding of viral proteins necessary for replication. We made large polyamides in an attempt to minimize their accessibility to human chromatin.3 The large size turned out to be important since anti-HPV activity was only observed for polyamides that bound at least ten base pairs, or one full turn of B-form DNA. However, it rapidly became clear that our active molecules were better than theoretically possible for replication inhibitors, and must be causing the active degradation of viral DNA.3 We then discovered broad spectrum activity against HPV16, 18 and 31, important oncogenic strains.3 We have since conducted preclinical safety studies on a lead and backup and discovered a new mechanism of action for polyamides and antivirals in which the DNA Damage Response is activated to destroy viral DNA.4,5 We further found that our compounds do not obey reported polyamide-DNA binding rules.6,7 These studies were conducted with biophysical techniques such as quantitative DNase I footprinting and hydroxyl radical-based affinity cleavage coupled to capillary electrophoresis, and fluorescence assays.8  We also discovered tetramethyl-substituted and unsubstituted guanidinium N-termini that improve antiviral activity,9 and we began -omics studies to further probe the mechanism of action. Antiviral results were also extended to other small DNA tumor viruses.10 Recent compounds and results will be reported.
    (1)    Yang, F.; Nickols, N. G.; Li, B. C.; Szablowski, J. O.; Hamilton, S. R.; Meier, J. L.; Wang, C.-M.; Dervan, P. B. J. Med. Chem. 2013, 56, 7449.
    (2)    Saha, A.; Pandian, G. N.; Sato, S.; Taniguchi, J.; Hashiya, K.; Bando, T.; Sugiyama, H. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 2013, 21, 4201.
    (3)    Edwards, T. G.; Koeller, K. J.; Slomczynska, U.; Fok, K.; Helmus, M.; Bashkin, J. K.; Fisher, C. Antiviral Res. 2011, 91, 177.
    (4)    Edwards, T. G.; Helmus, M. J.; Koeller, K.; Bashkin, J. K.; Fisher, C. J. Virol. 2013, 87, 3979.
    (5)    Edwards, T. G.; Vidmar, T. J.; Koeller, K.; Bashkin, J. K.; Fisher, C. PLOS One 2013, 8, e75406.
    (6)    He, G.; Vasilieva, E.; Harris, G. D.; Koeller, K. J.; Bashkin, J. K.; Dupureur, C. M. Biochimie 2014, 102, 83.
    (7)    Vasilieva, E.; Niederschulte, J.; Song, Y.; Harris, G. D.; Koeller, K. J.; Liao, P.; Bashkin, J. K.; Dupureur, C. M. Biochimie 2016, 127, 103.
    (8)   Dupureur, C. M.; Bashkin, J. K.; Aston, K.; Koeller, K. J.; Gaston, K. R.; He, G. Anal Biochem 2012, 423, 178-83.
    (9)   Castaneda, C. H.; Scuderi, M. J.; Edwards, T. G.; G. Davis Harris, J.; He, G.; Dupureur, C. M.; Koeller, K. J.; Fisher, C.; Bashkin, J. K. MedChemComm 2016, 7, 2076-2082.
    (10)    Bashkin, J. K.; Edwards, T. G.; Fisher, C.; Harris, G. D., Jr.; Koeller, K. J.; US Patent Application 14/818881, publication date: November 19, 2015, 34 pp.

Science PREPs Office: Pre-Professional + Career Preparation for Science Majors

  • Explore career options and evaluate majors based on your interests, skills and values.
  • Plan for graduate or professional school.
  • Find jobs, internships and job-shadowing programs. 

Learn more at Science PREPs.