Michelle A. O’Malley earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004. She holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware in 2009, where she worked with Prof. Anne Robinson to engineer overproduction of membrane proteins in yeast. O’Malley was a USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at MIT, where she developed new strategies for cellulosic biofuel production. She joined the Chemical Engineering faculty at UC-Santa Barbara in 2012, and her research group engineers protein synthesis within anaerobes and consortia for sustainable chemical production, bioremediation, and natural product discovery. O’Malley was named one of the 35 Top Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review in 2015, and is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), a DOE Early Career Award, an NSF CAREER award, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the ACS BIOT Young Investigator Award, an ACS PMSE Young Investigator Award, an ACS WCC “Rising Star” Award, and a Hellman Faculty Fellowship.
Proteins are the building blocks of life, and are responsible for processes ranging from intricate cellular communication to enzymatic conversion on an industrial scale. By understanding how cells synthesize proteins, and how their three-dimensional structure informs protein function, we can engineer proteins and their production platforms for diverse biotechnology applications. To address these issues, our approach combines classical cell biology with cutting-edge technologies (next-generation sequencing, genomic manipulation) that are rooted in the core biological sciences to interrogate and engineer molecular mechanisms that underlie protein production. In particular, our group is developing new tools to culture, analyze, and engineer non-model microbes for biotechnology applications. In addition, we rely on biophysical methods to elucidate protein-protein contacts, with the aim of controlling these interactions both in vivo and in vitro. Systems of interest to us have broad applicability to bioenergy and sustainability, as well as to drug development and detection.