WORCESTER, Mass.–In response to growing student interest, the expansion of the university's biochemistry faculty, and the importance of high-level investigation in biochemistry to the interdisciplinary research underway in the WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park, the faculty of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently voted to establish a new PhD program in biochemistry.
The program will be run by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which has offered a bachelor of science and a master of science in the field since 1995. "Biochemistry, the study of the chemistry of life, is central to the life sciences revolution that is producing everything from new pharmaceuticals, to new insights into the cause of disease, to new biomaterials and biomedical devices," said Kristin Wobbe, department head and John C. Metzger Professor of Chemistry.
"Because of the centrality of this field to research in all areas of the life sciences, we are seeing increasing interest from students in pursuing advanced studies in biochemistry. With the addition of the PhD program, WPI will be able to attract outstanding students, talented faculty members, and significant research funding."
Wobbe, at WPI since 1995, is one of the current faculty members whose teaching and research focus on biochemistry. Her research explores methods for augmenting the production of plant secondary metabolites, including artemisinin, an antimalarial compound. Professor José Argüello, a WPI faculty member since 1996, seeks to understand the structure and function of proteins in the cell membrane that transport ions. Associate Professor George Kaminski, who joined the faculty this year, works in the area of computational biophysical chemistry. Professor W. Grant McGimpsey, a member of the department since 1989 and director of the WPI Bioengineering Institute, modifies surfaces for the production of biosensors and biocompatible materials and for the growth of cells. The department is currently seeking to hire two new faculty members who will conduct research at the interface of chemistry and biochemistry, Wobbe says. In addition, three faculty members in the Biology and Biotechnology Department will have collaborative appointments in biochemistry.
The biochemistry faculty works in the Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center, the $50 million, 125,000-square-foot research facility completed by WPI in 2007. In this state-of-the-art laboratory and office building, individual lab spaces and shared facilities are allocated by research focus area, rather than department, encouraging interdisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration.