Michelle O’Malley, ICB Systems and Synthetic Biology Task Order Leader, was named by MIT Technology Review as one of its 2015 top Innovators Under 35. The prestigious annual list honors exceptionally talented young technologists whose work has great potential to transform the world.
“I am honored to be recognized by MIT Tech Review as one of their Innovators Under 35,” said O’Malley, who is considered by the publication as a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology and materials. “Each year this list features an impressive collection of individuals across diverse fields who are pushing the boundaries of science, engineering and technology. It’s amazing to be counted among these remarkable people, and I look forward to translating our basic science discoveries into engineering solutions.”
O’Malley studies anaerobic microbes and in her lab, they are more than just digesters of organic material. Whether in landfills, compost piles or in our bellies; these microbes are agents for new sources of energy and next-generation medicines.
“Compared to microbes that thrive in the presence of oxygen, anaerobes are woefully understudied,” O’Malley said. “They represent a vast, untapped resource for novel enzymes that degrade woody biomass into sugars, as well as compounds that could find use as new drugs.” Her research has resulted in new techniques to isolate anaerobes from biomass-rich environments to uncover their interdependencies. Forthcoming applications of this research include engineering anaerobic digestors, production of fuels and commodity chemicals from waste materials, and discovery of new natural products.
This year’s honorees are highlighted in the September/October magazine, which hits newsstands worldwide on September 1. They will appear in person at the upcoming EmTech MIT conference November 2-4 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.