Tuesday, March 24, 2020
For her innovative research and significant contributions to the biological engineering field, Michelle O’Malley, an associate professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Chemical Engineering Department, has been elected a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Nominated by their peers, the 156 newly elected fellows represent the top two percent of the medical and biological community. They are selected for their contributions in research, academia, industry, and government.
“I am extremely honored to be elected a Fellow of the AIMBE. It means a lot to me that the biochemical engineering community values our group’s research and the impact it has had on several fields – from value-added chemical production to pharmaceutical development,” said O’Malley. “As a new AIMBE Fellow, I also take seriously my responsibility to advance research investment and help shape U.S. policy related to medical and biological engineering. Given current world events, this will be more important than ever before.”
O’Malley’s research group focuses on the biotech potential of unusual microbes from nature, which may have significant applications when it comes to renewable energy and manufacturing chemicals and drugs. Her most recent work investigated the functions of anaerobic gut fungi, primitive microbes found mainly in large herbivores. The fungi’s enzymes and unique ability to transform cellulose from plants into sugars could offer new sources of biofuels and methods of producing the next generation of pharmaceuticals.
O’Malley’s work has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), National Science Foundation CAREER award, Department of Energy’s Early Career Award, and MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35. Last fall, O’Malley also received a $2.25 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance the knowledge of and technology for advanced biofuels, received the American Society of Microbiology Award for Early Career Applied and Biotechnological Research, and was named one of ten scientists to watch by Science News.
Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to medical and biological engineers, and among their ranks are three Nobel Prize laureates, eighteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Science and/or Technology and Innovation, one hundred seventy-three elected members of the National Academy of Engineering, eighty-three National Academy of Medicine inductees, and thirty-six National Academy of Sciences members.