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Faculty

Center Faculty

Michael Jewett

Michael Jewett

Director of the Center for Synthetic Biology, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

847-467-5007

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Michael Jewett is the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and the Walter P. Murphy professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University. He received his PhD in 2005 from Stanford University. He joined Northwestern in 2009 after completing postdoctoral studies as an NSF International Research Fellow at the Center for Microbial Biotechnology in Denmark and as an NIH Pathway to Independence Fellow at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Jewett’s lab has made seminal advances that established the field of cell-free biotechnology, enabling on-demand biomanufacturing, fast and portable diagnostics, and next-generation educational kits. In addition, he has engineered tethered ribosomes to establish the first fully orthogonal ribosome-mRNA system in cells that makes it possible to diversify, evolve, and repurpose the ribosome to synthesize new classes of medicines and evolvable matter. Dr. Jewett is the recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award, David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, the DARPA Young Faculty Award, Camille-Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the ACS Biochemical Technologies Division Young Investigator Award, the Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award, and a Finalist for the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, Life Sciences Category.

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Neha Kamat

Neha Kamat

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

847-467-2671

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Neha Kamat is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. Neha received her B.S. in Bioengineering from Rice University, her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed her postdoctoral training as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research group uses techniques in membrane biophysics, microscopy, and membrane reconstitution to assemble artificial cells. Her lab asks fundamental questions about how membrane properties affect membrane protein activities and they design new technologies that harness membrane biophysical changes to execute complex chemical behaviors, like reaction initiation or molecular release.

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Joshua Leonard

Joshua Leonard

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

847-491-7455

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Joshua N. Leonard is an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University. Leonard received a BS from Stanford University in 2000, and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. Leonard then trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Experimental Immunology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, and he joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 2008. Leonard’s research group engineers novel biological systems that perform customized, sophisticated functions for applications in biotechnology and medicine. Using the tools of mammalian synthetic biology, biomolecular engineering, and systems biology, the group develops technologies including programmable cell-based “devices” that probe and modulate immune responses in a patient- and disease-specific fashion. Applications include new treatments for cancer, programmable smart vaccines, and new gene therapy platforms. The Leonard group is advancing the frontiers of design-based medicine to address unmet medical needs and improve both quantity and quality of life. Dr. Leonard is recipient of an NIH Cancer Research Training Award, the 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award, the Clarence Ver Steen Graduate Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring, and has testified as an expert witness before the U.S. House of Representatives on “21st Century Biology.” He also co-directs a graduate cluster in Biotechnology, Systems, and Synthetic Biology and founded Northwestern’s international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) team.

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Julius B. Lucks

Julius B. Lucks

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

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Julius B. Lucks is Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University. Research in the Lucks group combines both experiment and theory to ask fundamental questions about the design principles that govern how RNAs fold and function in living organisms, how these principles can be used to computationally design and evolve nucleic acids with new function, how molecular systems compute and process information through dynamic folding processes, and recently how cell free synthetic biology can be used to create simple, low-cost and smart diagnostics to empower individuals to monitor the health of themselves and the environment. For his research, Professor Lucks has been recognized with a number of awards including a DARPA Young Faculty Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, an ONR Young Investigator Award, an NIH New Innovator Award, an NSF CAREER award, the ACS Synthetic Biology Young Investigator Award, and a Camille-Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award. He is a founding member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, and together with Jeff Tabor and others he co-founded the Cold Spring Harbor Synthetic Biology Summer Course.

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Niall Mangan

Niall Mangan

Assistant Professor of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics

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Niall Mangan is an assistant professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at Northwestern University. Niall received a duel B.S. in mathematics and physics from Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, and her Ph.D. in systems biology from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Starting in 2013, she was a postdoctoral associate in the Buonassisi Photovoltaics Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. In 2016, she became an acting assistant professor in applied mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, and a summer research associate with the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, WA. In 2018, Niall started her research group at Northwestern. Her group focuses on biological and physical modeling and data-driven methods for model identification, parameter fitting, and systems design. The group's mathematical work sits at the intersection of dynamical systems, statistics, optimization, and physical modeling. The group works closely with experimental collaborators to develop models for complex systems such as metabolic and regulatory systems and to further understand how different mechanisms interact and provide engineering design rules. Niall has long been interested in alternative energy development, sustainability, and how spatial organization and temporal organization can be used to enhance biochemical production.

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Milan Mrksich

Milan Mrksich

Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology

847-467-0472

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Milan Mrksich is the Henry Wade Rogers Professor with appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Cell & Molecular Biology at Northwestern University. He received his PhD in 1994 from Caltech and then completed postdoctoral studies as American Cancer Society Fellow at Harvard University. Dr. Mrksich’s lab is a leader in developing materials that enable discovery and problem-solving in the life sciences. He has developed surface chemistries that mimic the extracellular matrix and has used these to discover ligands that mediate adhesion and signaling in adherent cells and that provide opportunities for integrating the functions of cells with materials. He has also developed the SAMDI mass spectrometry method that allows high throughput characterization of enzyme function, and has commercialized that technology to support drug development. His lab focuses on evaluating large numbers of enzyme systems to identify and optimize those that can efficiently produce target molecules of interest. Dr. Mrksich has published more than 175 manuscripts, was appointed as an HHMI Investigator, and is the recipient of the Searle Scholar Award, the ACS Cope Scholar Award, the TR100 Young Innovator Award, the Sloan Award, and the Camille-Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.  

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Arthur Prindle

Arthur Prindle

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics

312-503-4344

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Arthur Prindle is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics in the Feinberg School of Medice, Northwestern University. Dr. Prindle received his BS in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, during which time he also pursued projects at the Koch Institute at MIT. His honors include a CASI fellowship from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Aspen Center for Physics Travel Award. He is currently a Simons Foundation fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. His research interests are focused in understanding the principles behind how bacteria communicate within biofilm communities.

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Gabriel Rocklin

Gabriel Rocklin

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

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Gabriel Rocklin is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology in the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Gabe received his B.A. in Biology-Chemistry and History from Claremont McKenna College, and his Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of California, San Francisco. At UCSF, he studied protein-ligand binding affinity prediction with Ken Dill and Brian Shoichet. Gabe then pursued postdoctoral studies in protein design with David Baker at the University of Washington, where he was a Merck Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation. His mixed computational/experimental lab develops high-throughput methods for protein biophysics and protein design, with a focus on designing protein therapeutics. Key questions include: How do protein sequence and structure determine folding stability, conformational dynamics, binding affinity, and other protein properties? Can we quantitatively predict these protein "phenotypes" from genotype (sequence) using computational modeling? And how do we design protein therapeutics that optimize these phenotypes? Gabe’s lab is a member of the international Rosetta Commons and contributes to Rosetta software development.

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Danielle Tullman Ercek

Danielle Tullman Ercek

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

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Danielle Tullman-Ercek is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University. Danielle received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She carried out postdoctoral research at UCSF and the Joint Bioenergy Institute, while part of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 2009, she joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering faculty at the University of California Berkeley, where she held the Charles Wilke Endowed Chair of Chemical Engineering and later the Merck Chair of Biochemical Engineering. In 2016, she moved her lab to Northwestern University. Her research focuses on building biomolecular devices for applications in bioenergy, living batteries, and drug delivery, and she is particularly interested in engineering multi-protein complexes, such as the machines that transport proteins and small molecules across cellular membranes. She is a member of the Engineering Biology Research Center (formerly the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center), and was awarded an NSF CAREER award for her work on the construction of bacterial organelles using protein membranes.

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Keith Tyo

Keith Tyo

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

847-868-0319

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Keith E.J. Tyo is assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University. Keith received his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was an NIH National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellow at Chalmers University, Sweden. At Northwestern, Keith co-directs the Recombinant Protein Production Core Facility and has launched the Global Health and Sustainability Biotechnologies certificate in the Masters of Biotechnology Program (MBP). Keith’s research interests are at the intersection of synthetic biology and global health. Working toward low cost healthcare diagnostics, the Tyo lab has developed a platform to enable microbes to detect important clinical biomarkers. His group aims to enable cell-based distributed diagnostics that could allow for much better diagnosis and treatment for HIV, TB, and malaria in impoverished, rural settings. To reduce the cost of drug synthesis, his group engineers microbes to produce non-natural drugs (at a reduced cost to chemical synthesis). Keith’s work has appeared in Science, Nature Biotechnology, BMC Biology, and other publications. Keith has received many accolades, including the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Institute for Sustainability and the Environment at Northwestern Early Career award, and the National Institutes of Health Transformative Research Award.

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External Faculty

Neda Bagheri

Neda Bagheri

Associate Adjunct Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Neda Bagheri directs the Modeling Dynamic Life Systems (MoDyLS) Lab  at the University of Washington Seattle and is a senior advisory scientist at the Allen Institute for Cell Science. She is currently an associate adjunct professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University.  She employs machine learning, dynamical systems, and agent-based modeling strategies to explain unique biological observations. Her background in control theory drives her interest to identify and design interventions that promote designed cellular decisions and cell populations outcomes. Her interdisciplinary projects work to elucidate, predict and ultimately control biological response, particularly in context of disease. Neda Bagheri is a Washington Research Foundation Distinguished Investigator and earned the Senior Moulton Medal by the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 2020. She received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2017 and is recognized nationally and internationally for her leadership and service in the interdisciplinary field of computational, systems, and synthetic biology.

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