Michelle O'Malley

Michelle O'Malley
Assistant Professor
Senior Investigator
UC Santa Barbara


Biochemical Engineering


Proteins are the building blocks of life, and are responsible for processes ranging from intricate cellular communication to enzymatic conversion on an industrial scale. 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.

Current areas of interest include:
• Discovery of novel cellulolytic proteins via metatranscriptomics
• Genetic and cellular engineering for biofuels and bioremediation
• Engineering membrane protein oligomers for drug discovery
• Development of a membrane protein-based drug detection platform