Perhaps one of the most significant and challenging problems in chemical biology is understanding how non-living matter can assemble to form life. We are approaching this problem through the synthesis of artificial cells, developing coupling reactions that drive the self-assembly, growth, and reproduction of lipid vesicle assemblies. To guide our work, we are developing chemical tools to blueprint the structure and function of modern cells. Using this combined approach, we strive to understand the prerequisite chemistry from which biology can emerge.  

Devaraj Lab is hiring postdoctoral fellows. Click below if interested in joining the lab.


July 22, 2020

Ahanjit Bhattacharya becomes finalist for Reaxys prize

One of the world’s most prestigious awards for graduate students in the chemical sciences, the Reaxys Ph.D. Prize, recognizes accomplished young scientists for their innovative and rigorous research. UC San Diego’s Ahanjit Bhattacharya is among this year’s 45 finalists for the prize—a global competition open to any individual who is earning or has recently completed a Ph.D. in any discipline of chemistry or related field of science. 

December 10, 2019

Researchers ‘Handed’ $4M to Boot-Up Mirror Cell Synthesis

With a new grant of $4 million from the National Science Foundation, UC San Diego’s Neal Devaraj and Yale University’s Farren Isaacs will work to design, construct and safely deploy mirror DNA, RNA and proteins; predict the physiology of cells with mirror components and assess the risks and rewards of mirror life.

November 01, 2019

Neal Devaraj received Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award

The North Jersey Section established the award in 1944 to commemorate the technical and industrial achievements of Leo Hendrik Baekeland, who served as ACS president in 1924, and to encourage younger chemists to emulate his example. The award is given once every 2 years in recognition of accomplishments in pure or applied chemistry to an American chemist under the age of 40.

April 19, 2019

Guggenheim Fellowship

Neal Devaraj receives one of the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships in the Natural Sciences. Guggenheim Fellowships have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

February 01, 2019

Henrike Niederholtmeyer wins 1st place prize at the Fourth Annual UCSD Chemistry and Biochemistry Postdoctoral Research Symposium

Postdoctoral fellow Henrike Niederholtmeyer received 1st prize for "best oral presentation" at the recent Fourth Annual UCSD Chemistry and Biochemistry Postdoctoral Research Symposium. She presented her recent work in eukaryotic cell-mimics.

January 13, 2019

Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry

Neal Devaraj has been selected to receive the 2019 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry from the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. The award is given for For outstanding research in biological chemistry of unusual merit and independence of thought and originality. 

November 25, 2018

Artificial Cells Gain Communication Skills

Read a news story in Science Magazine on our work creating synthetic eukaryotic cells that can perform artificial quorum sensing.

November 08, 2018

Watch a video featuring our lab from the New York Academy of Sciences

Hear about our lab's research in this video from the New York Academy of Sciences created for the Blavatnik Award.

October 10, 2018

Ahanjit Bhattacharya Wins Teddy Traylor Award

Graduate Student Ahanjit Bhattacharya has won the department's Teddy Traylor Award. This award is named after Teddy Traylor, a pioneer in organometallic chemistry and the first assistant professor at UCSD in 1961. 

July 27, 2018

Neal Devaraj named the 2018 Blavatnik National Laureate in Chemistry

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences today announced the 2018 Laureates of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, who will each receive the largest unrestricted scientific prize offered to America’s most promising faculty-level scientific researchers 42 years of age and younger.

March 15, 2018

Undergraduate Chu-Hsien Tsai wins William A. Lee Research Scholarship

Congrats to Devaraj Lab undergraduate Chu-Hsien Tsai, who has won the William A. Lee Research Scholarship from the Division of Physical Sciences. The William A. Lee Undergraduate Research Scholarship provides funding for UC San Diego undergraduates majoring in the Physical Sciences (Chemistry & Biochemistry, Mathematics, Physics) to conduct a summer research project under the guidance of a UC San Diego faculty member.

February 13, 2018

Light Triggered Translation Using Caged mRNA

Read a UCSD news release detailing our recent work on light activated translation using caged mRNAs.

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Changing the structure of lipids can play important roles in membrane biology and dysregulation can lead to disease. While artificial membranes have been used to model the properties of native membranes, previous methods have not been able to mimic lipid membrane remodeling. We recently have shown that reversible chemical reactions can be harnessed to achieve spontaneous remodeling of lipids in synthetic membranes. 

Though Native Chemical Ligation (NCL) has been ubiquitously used to assemble peptides and proteins, we have used NCL to assemble phospholipids. This enables nonenzymatic formation of phospholipid vesicles/membranes from thioester precursors, mimicking the membrane protein catalyzed assembly of phospholipids in live cells, which also uses long chain thioesters as precursors.