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Chemistry and Biochemistry

Research Centers

Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE)

The Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) works to understand how aerosol particles impact the environment, air quality and climate. An interdisciplinary team of scientists supports the center’s work and includes atmospheric, physical, biochemistry, analytical and organic chemists, oceanographers and marine biologists.

Center for Renewable Materials

This team of biologists, chemists, structural engineers and industrial designers follow a transdisciplinary approach to building the future of sustainable materials. They believe that a convergent approach, spanning fundamental and applied research with design, will catalyze the innovation necessary to advance manufacturing into the future. They target real product applications and develop a workflow that responds to environmental needs and meets commercial requirements through direct interaction with industry.

Research Areas


The study of chemical interactions between living things and the natural environment, ranging from how organisms incorporate and respond to elements in their environment to the alterations biological systems make to the chemical environment of the Earth.

Biogeochemistry and Greenhouse Gases

The study of the interactions of the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans with ecosystems, weather and climate.

Isotopic Geochemistry

Using radioactive isotope systems to determine the age and origins of minerals and rocks, primarily as tracers of magmatic processes and the evolution of the earth.

Ocean Acidification

Studying the fundamentals and effects of ocean acidification, including biological and biogeochemical consequences.

Past Climate Change

Researching how earth's climate changed in past eras by studying ocean sediment cores, ice cores and other scientific evidence.

Labs, Projects, Programs and Collaborations

Aluwihare Lab: Chemistry & Biology of Ocean Organic Matter

Researchers at the Aluwihare Lab study organic molecules in natural waters to understand the global cycling of biologically essential elements like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.

Décima Lab

Researchers in the Décima Lab study zooplankton ecology, gelatinous zooplankton, trophic dynamics and effects on biogeochemistry and the effects of climate change on pelagic communities.

Environmental and Complex Analysis Laboratory

The Environmental and Complex Analysis Laboratory (ECAL) is a state-of-the-art analytical facility home to cutting-edge equipment. The lab is a unique partnership between UC San Diego and Thermo Scientific. The facility serves as a platform to develop innovative strategies for performing sensitive, accurate and precise analysis. The laboratory’s expertise and resources are available to researchers at UC San Diego and researchers across the globe.

Featured Researchers and Professors

Michael D. Burkart

Director, Center for Algae Biotechnology; Directory, Center for Renewable Materials; Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry; California Center for Algae Biotechnology

Michael Burkart's lab has played a significant role in creating the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology (SD-CAB). As director of the Center for Renewable Materials, Burkart focuses on biosynthesis and renewable fuels and materials, including algae as feedstock and a biopolymer that may replace traditional polyurethane and polyester.

Vicki Grassian

Distinguished Chair of Physical Chemistry; Distinguished Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, NanoEngineering, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Co-Director, Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE)

Atmospheric chemist Vicki Grassian studies the properties of aerosols and their effect on the global atmosphere, the chemistry of indoor surfaces and its impact on air quality and how manufactured nanomaterials impact the environment and human health.

Cliff Kubiak

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Cliff Kubiak holds the Harold C. Urey Chair in Chemistry. His research group focuses on utilizing carbon dioxide (CO2), an abundant greenhouse gas, for the ultimate manufacture of energy-dense liquid fuels. These efforts have concentrated on CO2 activation and reduction of CO2 by chemical, photochemical and electrochemical means and the development of catalysts to transform CO2 into organic products.

Kimberly Prather

Professor, Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography; Climate Sciences; Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

Atmospheric chemist Kimberly Prather conducts research focused on improving our understanding of how humans influence our atmosphere and climate. After developing a unique method for the online characterization of atmospheric aerosols' size and chemical composition, the Prather group now performs studies worldwide to understand the role of aerosols in climate change.

Jonathan Slade

Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Atmospheric chemist Jonathan Slade studies fundamental chemical and physical processes affecting the formation, evolution, toxicity and climate properties of atmospheric aerosols and their impact on air and water pollution and climate change.