Dr. Michelle O’Malley, 2018 Rising Star Award Winner, is an Associate Professor at UC Santa Barbara researching protein synthesis and manipulation of cellular behavior for biomedical and environmental applications. Michelle grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, fascinated with biology. She was curious about how biological systems worked and felt that to understand these systems, she would have to understand chemical engineering. Michelle received her bachelor degrees in both chemical engineering and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004 and received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from University of Delaware in 2009.
Michelle’s lab at UC Santa Barbara (https://chemengr.ucsb.edu/people/michelle-omalley) has focused on genetic and cellular engineering of anaerobic gut fungi; synthetic anaerobic consortia for bioproduction and model development; engineering synthetic fungal cellulosomes and novel biocatalysts; developing membrane proteins for drug discovery, detection, and diagnostics; and new membrane proteins for synthetic biology (https://chemengr.ucsb.edu/people/michelle-omalley). The lab has identified over a thousand new enzymes with new functions by cultivating microbes from bovine gut and feces.
Michelle has received numerous awards and recognition for her work including the ACS Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Young Investigator Award, Henry & Camille Dreyfus Foundation Scholar the 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 2015 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Award.
In her talk at the ACS meeting, Michelle mentioned a number of items to think about during your career. You should identify mentors and advocates. Know your strengths and where you can grow. You should keep a “feel good” folder with family pictures and notes. Give back to those who are up and coming. You shouldn’t feel the need to fall in line with the rest. Finally, blaze a new trail and have confidence!