Welcome! The Devaraj Lab at UCSD focuses on the design of chemoselective reactions for addressing problems in bottom-up synthetic biology and molecular imaging. Bioconjugation chemistries are some of the most important and commonly used tools in chemical biology. Our interdisciplinary research aims to advance important knowledge in chemical biology by extending the use of bioconjugation reactions into previously unexplored frontiers and challenging preconceived notions of where chemical reactions can be performed. We are part of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

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


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.

November 16, 2017

Devaraj Lab Awarded NIH Research Project Grant to Explore Covalent RNA Labeling

Our lab has been selected to receive an NIH R01 to establish an RNA-centric technology that can facilitate the robust purification and proteomic analysis of RNA-protein complexes by direct labeling of a minimally perturbing recognition element encoded within an RNA of interest.

October 04, 2017

Magomedov-Shcherbinina Memorial Prize

Neal Devaraj has been selected to receive the 5th Magomedov-Shcherbinina Research Prize, which is awarded to a young chemist under the age of 40, irrespective of research area, who has demonstrated exceptional ability in research during the first ten years of his/her first independent academic appointment, and who shows exceptional promise for outstanding accomplishments in the future. The Magomedov-Shcherbinina Memorial Prize and Lectureship was established in 2006 in memory of the Magomedov-Shcherbinina family.

October 03, 2017

UC San Diego Researchers May Be Shedding Light on Life’s Chemical Origins

Read a UCSD news release on our recent paper “Continual reproduction of self-assembling oligotriazole peptide nanomaterials,” published in Nature Communications.

April 16, 2017

Defense Science Study Group (DSSG) Selection

Neal Devaraj has been selected to be part of the Defense Science Study Group (DSSG). This program introduces outstanding science and engineering professors to the United States’ security challenges and encourages them to apply their talents to these issues. The program, begun in 1986, is directed by the non-profit Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

March 18, 2017

Human Frontier Science Program Research Grant Awarded

The lab has been awarded a research grant by the Human Frontier Science Program. We will collaborate with an international team of researchers in Spain and Japan to develop synthetic cells containing artificial cytoskeletons

February 21, 2017

Our Work with Synthetic Cells Featured on Inside Science

Inside Science is an editorially independent news service of the American Institute of Physics. Watch a recent feature video on the work from the Devaraj lab on self-reproducing cells.

January 06, 2017

Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program Fellowship

Kayla Busby has been named to the Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program. She will receive funding to pursue a collaborative project with the Bennett Lab in Biological Sciences to better understand RNA-protein interactions in living cells.

November 21, 2016

Inamori Fellowship

Graduate Student Andrew Rudd wins prestigious Inamori Fellowship. This award is given annually by the Division of Physical Sciences to support our best and brightest graduate students who will ensure the future of humanity through the balance of the scientific process and the human spirit. 

September 21, 2016

NIH Diabetes Pathfinder Award

The Devaraj lab has been awarded an NIH Type 1 Diabetes Pathfinder Award (DP2). This 5 year award will fund research aimed at developing innovative methods for imaging insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

August 22, 2016

ACS Award in Pure Chemistry

Neal Devaraj has been selected to receive the 2017 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry sponsored by the Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity and the Alpha Chi Sigma Educational Foundation.

August 22, 2016

National Fresenius Award

Neal Devaraj has been selected to receive the 2016 National Fresenius Award sponsored by the Phi Lambda Upsilon and The National Chemistry Honor Society.

Please reload


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.