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Program Overview

Mission and Objectives

The predoctoral Chemical Biology Interface (CBI) program at Cornell University is in its eighteenth year of operation. The primary goal of this program is to train graduate students with the core principles and techniques of chemistry so that they can address the most current and important problems in biology and medicine.  Our goal is to develop researchers who in both academic and industrial settings can apply the tools of chemistry to surmount challenges in biological research and combat disease at the molecular level.  These goals are achieved by expanding the horizons of students with chemical backgrounds so that they gain insight into the problems and methods of modern biology and by providing students with biological backgrounds with the knowledge and expertise they need to bring chemistry to bear on their research areas. We target students with interests in pharmaceuticals, natural products chemistry, rational drug design, enzymology, medicinal chemistry, applications of synthetic chemistry to cell biology, protein engineering, biotechnology and genomics science. For future research success in these areas, we engrain in our students an understanding of chemical principles, including a core knowledge of organic and physical chemistry. Students individually develop in-depth expertise in such areas as chemical synthesis, mechanistic organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, chemical kinetics, and molecular structure determination.

Participating Departments and Units

Our mentors are currently drawn from eight participating units: Biomedical Sciences, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Microbiology and Immunology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Molecular Medicine, Nutritional Sciences, Plant Biology, and Plant Pathology.


Since our program’s inception, the average length of time from enrolling at Cornell until receiving a PhD degree has been 5.5 years. About 40% of our graduates are involved in industry and 55% in academia, while 5% have left science. Many of our graduates leave Cornell for industrial or academic post-docs; however, some have found their permanent positions as a result of their internships. Three have followed their training with law school and are high ranking counselors and patent litagators in the chemical industry.

Recent trainee Josh Judkins reports: “A project I started working on my CBI sabbatical was recently accepted by JACS!!
Though this work was funded completely by Pfizer, I would not have had the opportunity to work on this project, and be a postdoc at Pfizer, were it not for the industrial internship opportunity afforded by my CBI traineeship. Where appropriate, please convey the impact my CBI experience continues to have on my career.”

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