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Department of Biochemistry

About Us

We are a diverse and inclusive community conducting biochemical research at the forefront of current knowledge; educating medical students, graduate students and fellows; and serving the institution, the extended scientific community, and society at large. Our particular focus is the characterization of macromolecules and biological processes at the molecular level. Research groups in the department determine the structures of biological macromolecules, elucidate the mechanisms by which they function, and translate this information to advance research technology and medicine.

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Faculty Spotlight

Helena Safavi-Hemami, PhD

Helena Safavi-Hemami, PhD

Helena Safavi was born in Isfahan, Iran, and lived there for five years before moving to Germany with her family. During her youth in the small German town, Welschen Ennest, Helena discovered a love of nature and ecosystems, and remembers poring over books detailing the rich biodiversity of rainforests and coral reefs. Helena attended the University of Cologne as an undergraduate, where she studied biology, majoring in zoology, botany, and biochemistry. During her fourth year, Helena had the opportunity to volunteer in a lab studying corals and sea anemones, and was quickly hooked. She worked with Anke Klueter at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences in Queensland, Australia, for her Master’s degree, which focused on looking at the impact of heat and excessive sedimentation on the symbiosis between corals and their resident algae.

For graduate school, Helena worked with Anthony Purcell at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where she used mass spectrometry to identify peptide toxins used by marine cone snails to capture prey. During this time, Helena met Greg Bulaj (now in the Pharmtox department) and Toto Olivera (U of U Biology), the founder of the cone snail toxin field. She began a collaborative project between the Olivera/Bulaj and Purcell groups, and eventually obtained funding to continue this work as a postdoctoral fellow. Later, Helena received a Marie Curie fellowship for a collaborative project with Lars Ellgaard’s group at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark where she worked on identifying enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of cone snail toxins.


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Upcoming Events

March 11, 2024

Biochemistry Seminar Series

Join us for the Biochemisty Seminar Series- Emily Troemel Event Contact Name: Megan ...

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March 25, 2024

Biochemistry Seminar Series

Join us for the Biochemisty Seminar Series, Luke Rice, PhD Event Contact Name: Megan ...

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April 8, 2024

CANCELLED - Biochemistry Seminar Series

Join us for the Biochemisty Seminar Series Event Contact Name: Megan Hendrickson ...

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