At the same time, our strength is the interdisciplinary and modern approach to chemical research. The following interdisciplinary research areas provide a glimpse at this tradition. The areas and their boundaries are overlapping by nature. Various UCSB Organizations and Institutes provide support and a forum for collaborations.
Motivated by the urgent and valuable applications that may arise, such as new therapeutics and optoelectronic devices, numerous research groups in Chemistry and Biochemistry pursue the art and science of synthesizing new organic, inorganic, and organometallic molecules; novel crystals and macromolecular materials. Moreover, the fundamental science at the core of this work advances the frontier of synthetic methodologies. Several parallel and intertwined efforts thrive in our department: for developing new synthetic techniques and strategies; for creating new organic and inorganic molecules; and for discovering the fundamental – often unusual properties of these new materials.
The function – and malfunction – of biological processes depends wholly on the structure, dynamics and interaction of molecules within cells and between cells and their environments. In that regard, understanding human health and its challenges is the study of the interface between chemistry and biology. The millions of molecular processes ongoing in healthy cells, how these are modified when a cell becomes diseased, and how to restore healthy function through properly designed and efficiently delivered drugs are central missions to the research of many of the chemistry and biochemistry groups at UCSB. In parallel – and often in collaboration – other UCSB groups pursue the development of novel diagnostics for in vivo detection of drugs, metabolites and a cell’s viability.
Special note to students interested in biological topics. The graduate program in Chemistry and Biochemistry has strong ties to the campus-wide Program in Biomolecular Sciences and Engineering (BMSE). This combination provides a rich intellectual environment for interdisciplinary research in physical and chemical approaches to biological problems. Students and faculty from both programs collaborate and intermingle frequently in research labs, courses, and seminars. Students interested in studying topics related to biology through our department are also encouraged to explore the course offerings, seminar series, and faculty affiliated with BMSE. In addition, students in Chemistry and Biochemistry may participate in a Bioengineering Ph.D. emphasis offered through the Center for BioEngineering, which offers additional courses and seminars.
Nature provides an endless source of new ideas on how to create catalysts with superb selectivity and efficiency, materials with unusual chemical bonds and structure, molecular assemblies with unforeseen architectures, and materials with advanced functions such as colossal mechanical strength, unusual adhesive properties, blood compatibility, sensing capacity, switching ability or therapeutic prowess. Additionally, powerful new instruments, and techniques, rapid and efficient computational tools and new developments in theory enable the study of biomolecular structure and dynamics, resulting in a fresh understanding of biological function, and the application of this new knowledge in ways not previously thought possible.
Energy conversion has profound environmental and national security consequences. Research groups at UCSB are tackling this interdisciplinary problem from numerous angles.
New organic semiconductors are being created, and new nanostructures for light harvesting invented and (in the fullness of time) these ingredients assembled into efficient, long-lasting and inexpensive solar cells. The degradation mechanism of amorphous silicon is probed with advanced instrumentations to improve photovoltaic efficiencies. Ion conduction in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are being studied and improved. The knowledge, inspiration and insight attained are then used to develop the next-generation membranes materials. Lastly, several groups are studying new catalysts for applications in clean energy production and storage, as well as biomass conversion chemistry.
Chemists at UCSB do not merely prepare novel molecules and crystals, they also assemble them into functional devices. And the innovative molecular and materials architectures they produce are used to plumb the fundaments of structure-function relations. New platforms for optical, optoelectronic, plasmonic, catalytic, nanosensing, and energy conversion applications are among the vibrant areas of our current research, which is also aimed at characterizing and understanding the underlying physical properties of these nanomaterials; how they differ from the bulk properties and how these novelties can be turned into useful devices.
Molecular structure, the resulting crystal structure and molecular dynamics is the key to function in all chemical systems, spanning the gamut from biology to materials science. Many groups at UCSB explore this connection with state-of-the-art experimental techniques: mass spectrometry; spectroscopy across the entire electromagnetic spectrum from x-rays to terahertz and megahertz; scanned probe microscopies; ultrafast laser spectroscopy; single molecule spectroscopy; and X-ray crystallography as well as with the most up-to-date and innovative theoretical and computational instruments and methods.