Faculty Directory
Michael Jewett

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence


2145 Sheridan Road
Silverman 3621 & 1710
Evanston, IL 60208-3109

847-467-5007Email Michael Jewett


Jewett Lab


Center for Synthetic Biology


Chemical and Biological Engineering


Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

M.S. Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

B.S. Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering specialization (summa cum laude), University of California, Los Angeles, CA

Research Interests

Cell-free synthetic biology, protein synthesis, therapeutics, glycosylation, engineered ribosomes

Our research group is motivated by a desire to understand, harness, and expand the capabilities of biological systems for compelling applications in medicine, materials, and energy. Specifically, we focus on designing, constructing, and modifying biological systems involved in protein synthesis and metabolism to (i) understand why nature’s designs work the way they do and (ii) open the way to products that have been impractical, if not impossible, to produce by other means. An innovative feature of our research program is the use of cell-free systems. The foundational principle is that we can conduct precise, complex biomolecular transformations without using intact cells, which provides an unprecedented and otherwise unattainable freedom of design to modify and control biological systems. For example, cell-free systems avoid the need to balance the tug-of-war that exists between the cell’s physiological and evolutionary objectives and the engineer’s process objectives. We are also pioneering new directions to repurpose the translation apparatus for synthetic biology. The goal is to monitor, interrogate, and understand the process of translation, and with this knowledge diversify, evolve and repurpose the ribosome and its peripheral machinery into a re-engineered machine to generate non-natural polymers as new classes of sequence-defined, evolvable matter. 

Our research activities are structured into four thrust areas: (1) cell-free protein synthesis and orthogonal translation systems, (2) engineered ribosomes, (3) metabolic engineering, and (4) glycosylation. These research areas are connected by approach (e.g., cell-free systems) and their focus on biocatalytic systems (e.g., the translation apparatus). They advance new understanding of biological knowledge and develop enabling technologies for the production of therapeutics, biomaterials, and biochemicals. 

Selected Publications

  • Ashty S. Karim, Michael C. Jewett, “A cell-free framework for rapid biosynthetic pathway prototyping and enzyme discovery”, Metabolic Engineering, (2016)
  • Dafni Moatsou, Jian Li, Arnaz Ranji, Anas Pitto-Barry, Ioanna Ntai, Michael C. Jewett, Rachel K. O'Reilly, “Self-assembly of temperature-responsive protein-polymer bioconjugates”, Bioconjugate Chemistry, (2015)
  • Miriam Amiram, Adrian D. Haimovich, Chenguang Fan, Yane Shih Wang, Hans Rudolf Aerni, Ioanna Ntai, Daniel W. Moonan, Natalie J. Ma, Alexis J. Rovner, Seok Hoon Hong, Neil L. Kelleher, Andrew L. Goodman, Michael C. Jewett, Dieter Sll, Jesse Rinehart, Farren J. Isaacs, “Evolution of translation machinery in recoded bacteria enables multi-site incorporation of nonstandard amino acids”, Nature Biotechnology, (2015)
  • Jewett, Michael C.; Hong, Seok Hoon; Kwon, Yong-Chan; Martin, Rey W.; Soye, Benjamin J. Des, “Improving Cell-Free Protein Synthesis through Genome Engineering of Escherichia coli Lacking Release Factor 1”, ChemBioChem, (2015)
  • Jewett, Michael C.; Orelle, C?dric; Carlson, Erik D.; Szal, Teresa; Florin, Tanja, “Protein synthesis by ribosomes with tethered subunits”, Nature, (2015)
  • et al.; Oza, Javin P.; Aerni, Hans R.; Pirman, Natasha L.; Barber, Karl W., “Robust production of recombinant phosphoproteins using cell-free protein synthesis”, Nature Communications, (2015)
  • Jewett, Michael C.; Fritz, Brian R.; Jamil, Osman K., “Implications of macromolecular crowding and reducing conditions for in vitro ribosome construction”, Nucleic Acids Research, (2015)

Areas of Research

cell-free synthetic biology, protein synthesis, therapeutics, glycosylation, engineered ribosomes