Michelle O'Malley (she/her/hers)



(805) 893-4769
3343 Engineering II
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5080

ChemE Research Areas: 


2024 Appointed to U.S. Defense Science Study Group (DSSG)
2023 Biotechnology Progress Award for Excellence in Biological Engineering Publication
2023 Cliff R. Scholle Endowed Chairship, UC-Santa Barbara
2023 “Tartans on the Rise” Carnegie Mellon University Alumni Award
2021 AIChE Allan P. Colburn Award for Excellence in Publications by a Young Member of the Institute
2020 Food, Pharmaceutical, and Bioengineering Division Early Career Award in Chemical Engineering
2020 American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow
2019 Science News 10: Scientists to Watch
2019 American Society of Microbiology (ASM) Award for Early Career Applied and Biotechnological Research
2019 Lars G. Ljungdahl Lectureship, University of Georgia
2018 ACS Biochemical Technology (BIOT) Young Investigator Award
2018 Genewiz Award Recognizing Excellence in Genomics Research
2018 National Academy of Engineering, US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium Invited Attendee
2017 ACS Women's Chemist Committee (WCC) Rising Star Award
2017  Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award
2017  ACS Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Young Investigator
2016  Colburn Lecturer, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware
2016  Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)
2016  NSF CAREER Award
2015  MIT Technology Review, 35 Innovators Under 35
2014  Hellman Faculty Fellowship
2013  Department of Energy Early Career Award 
2011  U.S. Department of Agriculture-NIFA Postdoctoral Fellowship Grant
2011  Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation Fellowship
2010  Company of Biologists International Travel Fellowship
2007  University of Delaware Department of Chemical Engineering Teaching Fellowship
2007  Merck Award for Best Overall Poster, Biochemical Engineering XV
2007  American Chemical Society Leadership Development Award
2006  NASA-Harriett G. Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship
2004  NSF-IGERT Predoctoral Fellowship in Biotechnology
2000  Presidential Scholarship, Carnegie Mellon University




Research Description: 

The O'Malley Lab works at the interface of engineering and biology to engineer microbes and consortia with novel functions. We are especially interested in deciphering how “unwieldy” microbes in the environment perform extraordinary tasks - many of these microbes have no available genomic sequence and are exceptionally difficult to manipulate. We seek a better understanding of how proteins are synthesized by cells, and how their three-dimensional structure informs their function would enhance our ability to engineer proteins (and cellular expression platforms) for diverse biomedical and biotechnology applications. To address these issues, our approach combines classical cell biology tools with cutting-edge technologies (genome sequencing, RNAseq, cellular reprogramming) that are rooted in the core biological sciences to interrogate and engineer molecular mechanisms that underlie protein production in eukaryotic cells. 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.

Areas of interest:

  • Genetic and cellular engineering of anaerobic gut fungi
  • Synthetic anaerobic consortia for bioproduction and model development
  • Engineering synthetic fungal cellulosomes and novel biocatalysts
  • Membrane proteins for drug discovery, detection, and diagnostics
  • New membrane proteins for synthetic biology


BS: Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University (2004)
BS: Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University (2004)
PhD: Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware (2009)

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