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Chemical and Physical Biology

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Chemical and Physical Biology

The Chemical and Physical Biology (CPB) concentration provides students with a broad foundation in the physical and life sciences. This concentration is designed for students interested in applying quantitative tools, physical concepts, and chemical principles to the study of biology. Remarkable progress in the last four decades has revealed the atomic structure of proteins, enzymes, and genes; the nature of the genetic code; and how genes can be turned on or off in response to the demands of the environment. As our understanding of fundamental biological processes has increased, so has our appreciation that the focus on information transfer through nucleic acids provides an inadequate basis for understanding living systems. The activities of proteins are regulated by post-translational modifications—chemical changes in protein structure—and are affected by small signaling molecules. Dissecting metabolic pathways and reconstructing cellular networks requires supplementing the traditional arsenal of molecular, genetic, biochemical, and cell biological techniques with advances in chemical and physical methods that make it possible to characterize the state of a biological system under a given set of conditions. Chemical and physical biology provides a link between classical approaches to studying biology and the chemical tools and physical methods required to understand dynamic changes in complex biological systems.

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