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Science Education: Chemistry and Biochemistry

A 3-D model of the alkaloid serratezomine A. Credit: Johnston Group.Understanding the interactions between molecules—that's chemistry. And understanding the chemistry that occurs in living organisms—that's biochemistry. Studies in these areas focus on questions like:

  • How do enzymes generate cellular energy and facilitate chemical reactions?
  • What roles do natural substances like fats and sugars play in our bodies?
  • How can we use chemistry to design new medicines?

Follow the links below to learn more about chemistry and biochemistry, including recent discoveries, and read profiles of researchers working in these fields.


Cover image of The Chemistry of HealthThe Chemistry of Health
Showcases the many ways that chemistry is helping make the world healthier.

Computing LifeComputing Chemistry from Computing Life
Explores how combining chemistry and computers helps scientists develop new medicines and new materials.

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Classroom Poster

Cover image of Chemistry of Health PosterThe Chemistry of Health Poster
Get inspired by chemistry.

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Fact Sheet

DNA structureNIGMS Nobelists
NIGMS has a strong track record of funding scientists who receive Nobel Prizes. Learn about NIGMS-funded scientists who have received a Nobel Prize for their chemistry-related discoveries.

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Research News

Molecular structure and herbs. Credit: Paul Schimmel, The Scripps Research Institute.Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine Yields Its Secrets
Chang San, a Chinese herbal medicine, has been used for thousands of years to treat malaria fevers, and now scientists better understand how it works.

MedicinesNew Approach May Accelerate Drug Discovery
A toolkit of chemical reagents that can accelerate the process of synthesizing chemical structures found in many drugs may speed drug development and reduce its cost.

PFK1 enzyme (left) and a specific sugar attached to PFK1 in cancer cells (right). Credit: Linda Hsieh-Wilson, California Institute of Technology.Cancer Uses Special Sugar to Usurp Cells
Cancer cells add a sugar tag to an enzyme, shutting it down and forcing cells to promote cancer growth.

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Chemical structureThe Greening of Chemistry
Researchers are developing new reactions that make the chemical processes used to manufacture medicines, plastics and other products cleaner, faster and cheaper.

MetalsMetals: In Sickness and in Health
We're not quite Iron Man, but metals are intricately entwined with our bodies. They make vital functions like respiration, circulation and reproduction possible.

Cone snailNature: The Master Medicine-Maker
Plants, bacteria, fungi and other organisms are a prolific source of new drugs. Chemists seek to discover, examine and modify natural products with the hope of developing new medicines to improve human health.

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Profiles: Meet a Chemist

Amy PalmerMesmerized by Metals
Biochemist Amy Palmer tracks zinc in brain cells to uncover the causes of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and prostate cancer.

Brian BachmanDrugs from Deep Down
Biosynthetic chemist Brian Bachman studies secondary metabolites found in caves to help find cures for diseases.

Martin BurkeMolecular Prosthetics
Organic chemist Martin Burke is developing new chemical synthesis techniques to make substances that could restore function to molecules.

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Audio and Video

Blood vesselsCool Video: Repurposing Genes, Repurposing Drugs
Using an evolutionary approach, researchers have determined that a compound used to treat parasitic and fungal infections could also reduce the size of tumors.

Audio fileDr. Martin Burke on Being a Chemist
Martin Burke discusses his current research and how he got interested in it.

Michael RogersDr. Michael Rogers on Small-Molecule Chemistry
NIGMS' Michael Rogers talks about small-molecule chemistry.

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Fruitful DyesFruitful Dyes
These colorful, computer-generated ribbons show the backbone of a molecule that glows a fluorescent red.

Carbon Building BlocksCarbon Building Blocks
The arrangement of identical molecular components can make a dramatic difference.

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Chemistry of Health crosswordThe Chemistry of Health Crossword Puzzle | Accessible Version

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More chemistry games and puzzles | All quizzes and puzzles

This page last reviewed on January 17, 2013