Our History

Biochemistry 1912Biochemistry 1912

Biochemistry 1917
Biochemistry 1917

Biochemistry 1937 Addition
Biochemistry 1937 Addition

Biochemistry 1957 Addition
Biochemistry 1957 Addition

Biochemistry 1985 Addition
Biochemistry 1985 Addition

Biochemistry 1998 Addition
Biochemistry 1998 Addition

Biochemical Sciences 2012Biochemical Sciences 2012

Babcock & Others
Stephen M. Babcock & Others

The Department of Biochemistry builds on a long tradition of excellence in basic research that has led to important practical advances. A modern department, with emphases in cellular regulation, molecular genetics, protein structure, hormone action, virology, and developmental biology, has been built on this strong historical foundation.

Our department was founded in 1883. In the century since, its contributions have dramatically changed our understanding of the chemical basis of life and have illuminated how a molecular understanding of basic biological problems can improve the human condition. The Department's historical contributions are many and varied, and rank among the highlights in the emergence and rise to prominence of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Among the important discoveries made at the Department of Biochemistry are the:

  • Development of fermentation methods that led to the large-scale preparation of penicillin and other antibiotics
  • Development of methods for preservation of sperm, triggering the artificial insemination industry
  • Discovery of the anti-coagulants dicoumarol and warfarin and their uses against heartdisease and as rodenticides
  • Discovery of the key features of the incorporation of atmospheric nitrogen into amino acids
  • First chemical synthesis of a gene
  • Development of methods for the kinetic analysis of enzyme reactions
  • Discovery and identification of the hormonal form of Vitamin D, and use of its analogs to treat disease

Among the faculty who contributed to this outstanding array of accomplishments have been a long line of colorful, opinionated and visionary scientists, among them Stephen Babcock, E. B. Hart, Conrad Elvehjem, E. V. McCollum, Harry Steenbock, Marvin Johnson, Robert Burris, Karl Paul Link, Esmond Snell, 1968 Nobel Laureate Gobind Khorana, and Henry Lardy. Among the past and present members of the department are 18 members of the National Academy of Sciences. The Department of Biochemistry has trained over 1,300 PhDs, including 1997 Nobel Laureate Paul Boyer and 1972 Nobel Laureate Stanford Moore. These alumni occupy important scientific and executive positions throughout the world. At present, the Department is comprised of 120 graduate students, 80 postdoctoral investigators, 60 technicians, 30 faculty, and 400 undergraduates. The current department strongly emphasizes outstanding research, while its highly effective teaching program has won campus-wide recognition through awards for classroom instruction. Outstanding teachers include David Nelson and Michael Cox, the authors of a widely-used Biochemistry textbook.

On this proud foundation, driven by a desire to find the molecular explanation for basic biological phenomena, the Department's interests have widened and grown to embrace an ever-increasing diversity of areas and organisms. Central problems in developmental biology, protein structure and function, molecular genetics, nutrition, metabolism, enzymology, and more, dominate the intense research environment; the breadth of approaches is invigorating, and spans molecular biology, protein structure, molecular physiology and endocrinology, and synthetic and analytical chemistry. Interdisciplinary research is not only possible, but expected.

The desire to find molecular answers to fundamental problems in the biology and chemistry of life is the driving force of this department. To explore the present research interests of our faculty go to the Faculty web page. The Department relishes the challenges ahead, combining its modern methodologies and pioneering approaches with its established traditions, in an ambitious effort to understand the molecular basis of life.

Elvehjem
Conrad A. Elvehjem

LinkK.P. Link