Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program

Program Overview

The Chemistry-Biology Interface (CBI) Training Program is an NIH funded training grant. The CBI represents an important cross-disciplinary area of training and research that encompasses the fields of chemistry, engineering, medicine, and pharmacy. Training will be conducted under the supervision of mentors with wide-ranging expertise in these research areas. Eligible trainees will enter the CBI program via one of four graduate programs: Chemistry and Biochemistry, Engineering, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Biomedical Sciences.


Lecture Series

The La Jolla mesa is one of the world's largest academic and industrial research centers, with an extraordinary concentration of chemistry, biology, chemical biology, and drug discovery and development efforts. This includes the academic institutions of UC San Diego such as Chemistry and Biochemistry, Division of Biology, Skaggs School of Pharmacy, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD Medical School, the Moores Cancer Center; the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology; the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; the Scripps Research Institute; the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; the J. Craig Venter Institute; and the California Institute for Biomedical Research. All of these institutes are within walking or biking distance of UC San Diego and each hosts its own seminar and symposia series, which offer seminars from world-renowned researchers from academics and industry.

Three seminars per month will be recommended for the CBI Lecture Series, and students will be required to attend two. An online attendance checklist will be provided for the students and mentors to keep track of the seminars they attend.


A monthly CBI Workshop will be provided as part of the CBI curriculum. This workshop will be held on the second Tuesday of each month from 4pm-6pm. All CBI students will be required to attend. All of the active trainers will also be required to attend.

The CBI Workshop will provide the trainees with a variety of personal, professional, scientific, and career seminars and activities to enrich their graduate experience. Workshops will consist of three different formats on a rotating basis:

  1. Research Progress Talks - Four workshops each year will focus on research progress. Here students will present 20 minute, formal PowerPoint style presentations that each allows 10 minutes of discussion.
  2. Journal Club - The students will select papers to read collectively and take turns presenting the research to others in the group, including background, strengths and weaknesses, and future directions.
  3. Grant Writing/Reviewing Exercises - The CBI workshop will incorporate grant writing and reviewing as an important element of the educational experience. Here the students will learn the basic elements of conceptualizing, organizing, writing, presenting, and judging research grant proposals. The project will occur in three phases:
    1. Phase I - Proposal Concept. Each student will individually prepare a grant proposal project, including a one-page Abstract, Specific Aims, and Timeline.
    2. Phase II - Concept Presentation. These concepts will be packaged into two (2) PowerPoint slides and presented to the entire group. The group will evaluate these proposals on the basis of NIH guidelines of Significance, Innovation, Approach, and Overall Impact. The top 50% of the Phase I exercise will be paired with a partner for Phase III.
    3. Phase III - Review. The review process will take place similar to an NIH Study Section. First, the reviewers will privately review the proposals along with the NIH guidelines of Significance, Innovation, Approach, and Overall Impact and provide a written evaluation. Next, a study section will be held, where the proposals are formally presented and reviewed for these criteria, and a priority score will be assigned. (Authors of the reviewed proposals will be in conflict and thus out of the room at the time of their review.) The students will be provided with the written Summary Statement, and the "funded" proposals will be announced.

Annual CBI Symposium

Each year, an annual CBI Symposium will be held in the summer, in which each trainee presents his/her research progress to the entire CBI group, which includes students and faculty. Each student will provide a written report of their research project one week before the CBI symposium. The faculty trainers will evaluate each student based on the written report, the presentation, and the Reflective Student Portfolio. Each student will briefly meet with the faculty to discuss performance and future directions.

Personal Career Guidance

A major component of the training program will be ongoing personal and career guidance. Mentoring will be conducted by the PI (Dr. Burkart) and the Executive Committee made up of mentors from the trainees' home divisions: Chemistry (Gianneschi), Health Sciences (Gilson), Engineering (Christman), and Marine Chemical Biology (Moore).

Personal Guidance: Two tools will be utilized to enrich student learning and support throughout their graduate career: an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and a Reflective Student Portfolio (RSP).

An IDP is a self-conducted tool for the student to help them explore career possibilities and set goals to follow the career path that fits them best. The IDP is created by the student as a way to propose research and career objectives and to create milestones for their achievement. The IDP will further be used by the mentor of each student to fine tune each person's training and research trajectory.

The RSP project for the CBI is designed as a career or professional portfolio that the student will initiate upon joining the CBI program, with the intention of keeping it up throughout their graduate career. This RSP will help the CBI students organize, track, store, and maintain any documents related to their training and career as a way to showcase their skills, experience, and samples of accomplishments.

In addition to the IDP and RSP, the Executive Committee together with the PI will provide additional career guidance to the trainees. This will culminate annually in a Career Day. Speakers will be invited to discuss the various career trajectories that are possible for the Ph.D. graduates in Chemical Biology. The Career Day will be a half-day event, with 6-8 presentations of 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of discussion, punctuated by coffee breaks and a social hour. Speakers will include individuals from academic, industry, intellectual property and government employment backgrounds. Representatives from local industry will be invited for opportunities to interview training program trainees on campus through the UCSD Career Services Center.