Posted on behalf of the Rookie Rocky
Chemical biology is certainly one of the fast-growing fields these days, and has become an eye-catching term. The sheer fact that high-profile journals and departments have named or renamed themselves with this phrase demonstrates the promise and potential of this interdisciplinary study. Naturally, it is not surprising to see more and more chemical biologists emerging above the horizon. Though what does chemical biology really concern? The best answer may be "it depends”. According to my humble understanding, it could cover anything that is relevant to chemistry and/or biology. However, sometimes, the categorization may affect your career development to some extent – especially to a person who just launched his/her career, this explanation becomes rather crucial. The culture of chemistry is distinct from the one of biology: in chemistry, new investigators tend to start in a different field from their previous work, while many biologists carry on projects started with former senior co-workers. What are you supposed to do if you feel that you are standing right on the borderline? To modernize Hamlet a bit: “To study chemistry or biology, that is the question.” Again, the best answer may be "it depends”. It certainly depends on the people on your tenure committee, the journals to which you send your manuscripts, and the study groups that review your grants. Just like many things in life, being vague might not be a bad strategy.
(ed’s note: we at Nature Chemical Biology have also thought about these issues. Check out this editorial for more.)