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As an academic training center, the UIC Botanical Center hosts trainees interested in researching natural products, especially botanicals as dietary supplements.
UIC Botanical Center botanist Dr. Djaja D. Soejarto, UIC Botanical Center Botanists shown discussing one of the Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden trees with graduate students and postdocs.
The UIC Botanical Center is a research and training center, supporting the development of doctorate level scientists who have and will continue to contribute to the field of natural products research, also called Pharmacognosy. Trainees matriculate into the Botanical Center as graduate students from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy (MCP) or postdoctoral fellows. The College of Pharmacy Graduate Program provides opportunities for those interested in developing a career in Pharmacognosy as well as Medicinal Chemistry.
Training Grant Opportunities
A training program for natural products research is offered through MCP. Entitled Research Training in Natural Product Complementary and Alternative Medicine, this T32 training grant supports graduate students and postdocs working in the Botanical Center. This NIH training grant (5T32AT007533) is funded by the Office of the Director (OD), National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Training grant objectives emphasize interdisciplinary collaborative research and incorporate the College's graduate program in Pharmacognosy, which is only one of two such PhD programs in the United States, UIC's postdoctoral training program in Pharmacognosy, and the Medicinal Chemistry graduate and postgraduate education track focusing on natural products.
Unique Training Facilities
The UIC Botanical Center offers trainees access to state-of-the art equipment and resources as well as a unique medicinal plant research garden for researching natural products:
Analytical Core Resources
Under the direction of Dr. van Breemen and Dr. Dejan Nikolic, the Analytical Core of the UIC Botanical Center features the Chicago Mass Spectrometry laboratory, which is an exceptionally well-equipped biomedical mass spectrometry facility. Supporting also the campus-wide Research Resources Center and the University of Illinois Cancer Center, this facility is equipped with 14 mass spectrometers that include 7 triple quadrupole mass spectrometers for quantitative analysis, a quadrupole mass spectrometer, a linear ion trap mass spectrometer for MSn studies, QqToF and ion trap-ToF hybrid mass spectrometers for high resolution tandem mass spectrometry, MALDI time-of-flight (ToF) mass spectrometry for proteomics, and high resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance and Orbitrap mass spectrometers for MSn proteomics and metabolomics studies. Except for the dedicated MALDI mass spectrometer, all of these instruments are equipped with electrospray, atmospheric pressure chemical ionization and/or atmospheric pressure photoionization as well as HPLC or UHPLC for on-line separations.
The Analytical Core works closely with the Research Resources Center of UIC (a campus-wide shared resource) for proteomics and metabolomics studies. Established in part by a grant from The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust to the Chicago Biomedical Consortium, the proteomics component of the laboratory provides many types of mass spectrometry measurements including qualitative and quantitative analysis, protein identification, post-translational modification identification, quantitative proteomics using iTRAQ and AQUA, quantitative metabolomics, molecular mass determination, and data analysis. Informatics tools include Mascot, MassMatrix, SEQUEST, and specialty search engine software to identify proteins and post-translational modifications.
Complementing these biomedical mass spectrometry facilities and available to the Analytical Core of the UIC Botanical Center are other high-end instrumentation provided through the Research Resources Center and the Center for Structural Biology such as genomics resources, electron microscopy, and 600 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz NMR. Available to support our translational studies are outstanding clinical facilities at the adjacent University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics such as an NIH-funded Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
Botanical Core Resources
Directed by Drs. Guido Pauli and Shao-Nong Chen, the Botanical Integrity Core of the UIC Botanical Center has both the instrumentation and expertise to source botanical materials locally and worldwide, as well as analyze their integrity using state-of-the-art methodology. Working with reputable suppliers and experts in the field, the Botanical Integrity Core has been sourcing raw materials and extracts of botanical dietary supplements, providing materials from the gram scale for experimental investigations to the multi-kg scale for clinical studies. Pharmacognostic analysis of raw materials utilizes macroscopic and microscopic analysis including electron microscopy, DNA barcoding techniques developed in the Botanical Integrity Core including New Genome Sequencing in collaboration with UIC's RRC, as well as ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) fingerprinting methodology for the evaluation of the complex metabolomic patterns contained in the botanicals. The Botanical Integrity Core has pioneered the establishment of Botanical Integrity Dossiers (BPIDs), which represent comprehensive compilations of analytical evidence that supports the reproducibility of all subsequent studies carried out in the Botanical Center.
Another area of expertise provided by the Botanical Integrity Core relates to the provision and quality assurance of purified natural products and reference materials, which serve as standardization markers and are important materials for the biological studies in the Botanical Center. To this end, we utilize UHPLC, LC/GC-MS, and 1D/2D NMR methods for unambiguous identification. Our Core has unique expertise in quantitative NMR (qNMR) for orthogonal purity analysis of the reference materials, as well as in quantum mechanics-based NMR fingerprinting (HiFSA methodology) for the dereplication of marker compounds.
Atkins Research Garden
The Atkins Garden is not only a ready source of a large variety of plant species for education and research but also offers an island of beauty and tranquility on a busy campus.
Post-Graduate and Post-Doctoral Careers
New graduates work in a variety of positions within the pharmaceutical industry, at drug companies and natural products companies, governmental regulatory and research agencies and not-for-profit associations as well as academia and as postdoctoral fellows. Upon completion of their fellowships, post doctoral fellows follow a similar career path which may also include a position in academia - tenured or non-tenured research or teaching position.
Applying to the Graduate Program
To learn more about applying to the graduate program in pharmacognosy, please see the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy Graduate Programs page.