Cell free synthetic biology diagnostics developed by Lucks/Jewett labs monitor an individual’s water quality easily and rapidlyCell free synthetic biology diagnostics developed by Lucks/Jewett labs monitor an individual’s water quality easily and rapidly
Immobilization of enzymes/biomolecules in carriers for long-term stability & controlled activity in biocatalysis & drug deliveryImmobilization of enzymes/biomolecules in carriers for long-term stability & controlled activity in biocatalysis & drug delivery
From molecular folding to diagnostics the Lucks Lab explores how RNA acts as biosensors for contaminants & health biomarkersFrom molecular folding to diagnostics the Lucks Lab explores how RNA acts as biosensors for contaminants & health biomarkers
PLANT-Dx is a portable cell-free synthetic biology diagnostic platform that allows farmers to diagnose crop health (Lucks)PLANT-Dx is a portable cell-free synthetic biology diagnostic platform that allows farmers to diagnose crop health (Lucks)
SNAs consist of a dense shell of oligonucleotides radially arranged around nanoparticle core (Mirkin)SNAs consist of a dense shell of oligonucleotides radially arranged around nanoparticle core (Mirkin)
Engineering ribosomes offer opportunities for understanding & engineering biocatalytic systems for medicines & materials (Jewett)Engineering ribosomes offer opportunities for understanding & engineering biocatalytic systems for medicines & materials (Jewett)
Metabolomics study of mixed-carbon metabolism in a soil bacterium (Pseudomonas putida) of biotechnological importance (Aristilde)Metabolomics study of mixed-carbon metabolism in a soil bacterium (Pseudomonas putida) of biotechnological importance (Aristilde)

Research
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Areas of Research
Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology

The world faces a range of global challenges where biotechnologies stand to offer impactful solutions. Synthetic biology is reframing how we approach biotechnology development by uncovering new engineering principles by which we may harness the power of natural organisms to solve these challenges. New drug and new drug delivery technologies will help us fight disease, smart therapeutics promise whole new approaches to treating a range of diseases, cell-free diagnostic approaches promise to diagnose diseases and environmental contaminants, and new biomanufacturing technologies will help us sustainably supply the world with countless products. Northwestern chemical and biological engineers - trained and grounded in quantitative physical, biological and computational sciences - will make discoveries and innovate new approaches and drive the field forward.

Research Areas

Specific research areas pursued in the department include:

  • Mammalian synthetic biology
  • RNA synthetic biology
  • Cell-free synthetic biology
  • Point-of-use diagnostics
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Experimental and Computational Systems biology
  • Protein Engineering
  • Biomaterials

The department also has strong theoretical and computational research on bio-interfaces, computational and systems biology, self-organization and emergent behavior in biological, chemical and physical systems, and medical informatics.

Faculty

Our faculty research a wide range of topics in biotechnology and synthetic biology illustrated by the research thumbnails below:

Ludmilla Aristilde

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Aristilde Lab seeks to elucidate metabolic pathway networks in complex nutrient conditions using metabolomics-enabled systems biology approaches.

Linda Broadbelt

Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Associate Dean for Research

The Broadbelt Lab, in collaboration with the Tyo Lab, is developing computational frameworks to guide and optimize metabolic network design to achieve production of desirable compounds in biological systems.

Omar Farha

Associate Professor of Chemistry and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Farha lab investigates the immobilization of enzymes and other biomolecules in biocompatible carriers for their long-term stability and controlled activity in biocatalysis and drug delivery.

Michael Jewett

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Jewett Labis developing new routes to on-demand biomanufacturing, portable diagnostics, material synthesis, and education kits.

Joshua Leonard

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

The Leonard Lab is enabling an emerging paradigm of design-driven medicine by integrating synthetic biology with systems biology to address pressing challenges in medicine and biotechnology.

Julius Lucks

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Associate Chair of Chemical & Biological Engineering

The Lucks Lab develops methods for high-throughput dynamic RNA structural biology, and investigates molecular design and evolution approaches for RNA synthetic biology and cell-free point-of-use diagnostic technologies.

Chad Mirkin

George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering

The Mirkin lab uses spherical nucleic acids for the monitoring and manipulation of biological processes at the single-cell, tissue, and whole organism level.

Milan Mrksich

Vice President for Research
Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology

The Mrksich lab uses the tools of organic chemistry, materials science and biochemistry to address important challenges in and at the intersection of chemistry and biology.

Arthur Prindle

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

The Prindle Lab develops enabling technologies to characterize microbial communities and to engineer these microbes with the capacity to monitor and improve human health.

Danielle Tullman-Ercek

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Director, Master of Science in Biotechnology Program

The Tullman-Ercek lab engineers nanoscale protein machines and assemblies to create novel materials, biochemicals, vaccines, and diagnostics.

Keith Tyo

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Tyo Lab is understanding and engineering how molecules interact with proteins to enable new enzymatic reactions and biosensing modalities.

Muzhou Wang

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Wang lab engineers new tools to characterize the nanostructure and mechanical properties of biomaterials at high resolution and high throughput.