My laboratory aims to integrate state-of-the-art chemical biology and mass spectrometry to address fundamental challenges associated with studying the regulation of lipid metabolism and signaling in vivo. Our goal is to develop new chemical and bioanalytical methods to understand pathways of metabolic regulation and translate these findings into new therapeutic strategies for human disease. To achieve our goals, we synthesize and apply small molecule probes and inhibitors to detect and inactivate metabolic enzymes and pathways in living systems.


The science of organic synthesis is central to both the discovery and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and other fine chemicals and the emergence of subdisciplines of biology that are becoming increasingly focused on phenomena at the molecular level (e.g., synthetic biology and chemical biology). Over the last half-century revolutionary advances in synthetic organic chemistry have made it possible to synthesize virtually any molecule given enough time, money, and manpower.


Professor Herbst’s major research field lies in the interdisciplinary area of molecular astronomy, which is the study of molecules throughout the universe, especially in regions in between stars known as interstellar clouds. These objects eventually collapse to form new generations of stars and planetary systems, so the molecules found in interstellar clouds are related to the molecules found in planets such as our own.


For decades, the dearomatization of arenes has been recognized as a chemical transformation of fundamental importance. It provides the connection between this robust and abundant source of hydrocarbons and the alicyclic frameworks common to many biologically active products. Thus, dearomatization methods have become powerful tools for organic synthesis.


Astrochemistry concerns the behavior of atoms and molecules in astrophysical environments, which can include star-forming clouds and cores, and circumstellar and interstellar regions. The varied gas-phase chemical compositions of these environments are revealed by radio-telescope observations of molecular spectral-line emission and absorption, primarily in the mm and sub-mm bands. Infrared observations also indicate significant solid-phase abundances of simple hydrides, in the form of ices, which coat the sub-micron sized dust grains that permeate interstellar space.


One key area in understanding bacterial cell biology is spatiotemporal phenomena: Wherewhen, and how do individual biomolecules act and interact to govern the overall physiology of the cell?  To answer this question, we develop new high-resolution imaging methods for 3D single-molecule localization in intact bacterial cells.  In particular, we combine the resolving power of the electron microscope with the single-molecule sensitivity and specificity of fluorescence-based methods.  With these tools, we can localize single biomolecules in 3D space with a precision


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