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Join our 6 ECTS online course on chemical biology!

Registration for the 6 ECTS online course on chemical biology will open on September 13, 2021 for the autumn semester. This course aims to help budding scientists at the Master or PhD level to understand how to think and communicate at the interface of disciplines while expanding access to knowledge beyond the classrooms of the University of Geneva. The number of students is limited to 12.


Course description

This small private online course (SPOC) covers the three principle themes of chemical biology which are chemistry, biology and physics, and blends those together.

Chemical biology is deconstructed into its basic concepts and repackaged in a logical way to lead the student to what are modern chemical biology concepts in terms of how to think at the interface, apply concepts from different areas to problems that are not solvable by traditional, monodisciplinary means and to describe biological phenomena in a quantitative way.

A practical and theoretical knowledge bank of fundamental concepts gradually builds up for each student to send them on their way to understand and design their own chemical biology experiments.


List of modules

  • The course starts with an introductory module which aims to unite the various disciplines that have come to be incorporated into chemical biology: chemistry, physics and biology.
  • Fluorescence (and aspects of microscopy) is then presented as the general language used to read out biological phenomena as diverse as protein localization, membrane tension, surface phenomena, and enzyme activity.
  • The next module goes into more applied biological problems, using TIRF microscopy to study how the PRC2 complex interacts with chromatin and studying TORC2-specific signaling pathways and their regulation of/by membrane tension.
  • The next module discusses general points to consider in fusion protein design and basic ways to modify specific protein domains using chemical biology and focuses on applications, such as SNIFITS (metabolite sensors) and T-REX (lipid electrophile modification strategies).
  • Photocaged lipids are highlighted in the following module, looking particularly at sphingosine and G-REX (profiling of lipid derived electrophile sensors electrophiles).
  • Last but not least, screening methods are showcased on a more global scale by first addressing peptide nucleic acid mediated screening platforms and later discussing cell-based screening for STING inhibitors.


Features of the online course

Duration: 6h classroom time + 5h homework per week, running throughout the autumn semester. 

A large number of quizzes and graded problems have been crafted to help the student learn and apply knowledge in real-world settings.

Professors Robbie Loewith, Howard Riezman, Nicolas Winssinger, Aurélien Roux and Anne-Claude Gavin from the UNIGE, Pablo Rivera Fuentes and Yimon Aye from the EPFL, all members of the NCCR Chemical Biology network, feature in the course as instructors to provide a rounded perspective from several disciplines. Original data generated in labs from the NCCR network are extensively used.

A bonus feature is represented by the in-the-laboratory videos presenting a diverse array of modern chemical biology techniques to help the student achieve a fundamental understanding of the field that is broadly applicable, i.e. understand how science is really done.

Additionally, the 14CB04 class final exam consists of writing a research proposal of 2’000 words (written exam) and defending it orally (oral exam). The student is asked to select the topic for the proposal from something that has piqued his/her interest from the course and throughout the readings, lectures, lab videos, and professor- led discussions offered. 

Overall the course offers about 30 pages of original written material especially prepared for this course.


Target audience

The course is exclusively available to Master or PhD students in chemistry, biology, biochemistry or chemical biology from:


How to enroll ?

Registration for the 2021 autumn semester is now closed.

Contact: Phaedra Simitsek, COO of the NCCR Chemical Biology
More info about this course: visit the UNIGE website