Biomolecular Engineering

Professors Chen, Liao, Monbouquette, and Tang

California has been the focus of the nation’s biotechnology industry since its inception. UCLA is among the best campuses for research in biomolecular engineering, as highlighted by two Nobel prizes honoring UCLA faculty members (Paul Boyer, 1997, for the discovery of ATPase in energy metabolism; and Louis Ignarro, 1998, for the discovery of nitric oxide’s role in medical physiology).

E-Coli Petri Dish
E. coli engineered by UCLA graduate students to produce astaxanthin (orange), compared to the native cells (off-white).

Research in the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department focuses on manipulation of DNA, proteins, and cells for applications in biotechnology and clinical medicine. Both theoretical and experimental tools are developed to address scientific and engineering issues of high societal impact. Current focus areas include (1) genomics and metabolic engineering, (2) natural-product synthesis, (3) biosensor design and fabrication, (4) biomaterials and tissue engineering, and (4) mammalian synthetic biology with emphasis on immunotherapy. Cutting edge technology such as next-generation sequencing and nano-fabrication technology are being used in conjunction with mathematical tools to advance bioscience and engineering. For detailed project descriptions, please visit individual faculty’s websites.

Monbouqette Fermenter
Prof. Monbouquette and a custom-built, glass-lined-steel fermenter for the culture of extremely thermophilic microbes.

The department offers a sequence of three cellular and molecular bioengineering lecture courses: Biochemical Reaction Engineering, Bioseparations and Bioprocess Engineering, and Molecular Biotechnology, which is followed by a laboratory course in Bioprocess Technology that provides hands-on training with bioreactors and protein purification. Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering graduate students also benefit from the presence of excellent courses in chemistry, life sciences, and medicine on the UCLA campus. Most students pursue a minor in these areas to augment the courses available in the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department.

UCLA’s NIH-supported Biotechnology Training Grant provides financial support to biomolecular engineering graduate students, encourages collaboration among various disciplines, and offers trainees an opportunity to intern at local biotechnology companies.  The department has strong ties with the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and biomolecular engineering students have opportunities to work together with physicians on clinically significant problems. The cutting-edge projects, state-of-the-art facilities, interdisciplinary programs, and excellence of UCLA’s academic infrastructure provide an outstanding learning and research environment for students in the cellular and molecular bioengineering program.

Confocal fluorescence microscopy image of a human T cell forming immunological synapses
Confocal fluorescence microscopy image of a human T cell forming immunological synapses with two target cells.