The Department Welcomes Allie Obermeyer
I am thrilled to be joining the Chemical Engineering Department at Columbia University. I have always admired Columbia as an institution that is focused on both world-class research and teaching. After meeting with faculty, students, and administrators over the past few months, I cannot believe that my experience on campus has exceeded my expectations. It was clear to me that Columbia supports collaborative and interdisciplinary research and attracts genuinely enthusiastic and intellectually curious students. I am looking forward to joining the Columbia community and playing a role in advancing the SEAS mission “to expand knowledge and advance technology through research, while educating students to become leaders informed by an engineering foundation.”
My research interests are at the intersection of chemistry, biology and materials science and are motivated by a goal to improve human health. My undergraduate research experience at Rice University sparked my interest in utilizing both chemistry and engineering to explore biological systems. I was introduced to the excitement of original discovery when engineering microbes to perform chemical synthesis in the laboratory of Prof. Seiichi Matsuda. After graduating from Rice, I entered the Chemical Biology Graduate Program at the University of California, Berkeley where I had the opportunity to work under Prof. Matthew Francis. My doctoral research spanned bioconjugation reaction development to the design of targeted molecular imaging agents for the detection of cardiovascular disease. Following my Ph.D., I pursued postdoctoral research in the Chemical Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow. Under the mentorship of Prof. Bradley Olsen, I have explored methods for improving the stability and processability of enzymes by using synthetic polymers to drive protein self-assembly. I am grateful for the mentorship I have received and hope to make a similarly positive impact in the lives of the students I will advise and teach.
Throughout my research career, I have been fascinated by protein biopolymers. Proteins comprise one of the most impressive categories of polymers known: they produce extremely strong and tough materials, efficiently catalyze chemical reactions, selectively bind analytes within complex mixtures, and harvest light by converting it into chemical energy. As part of my independent career, I will work to create new biomaterials that combine the incredible diversity of structure and function of proteins with the stability, chemical diversity, and processability of synthetic polymers. We will focus on creating hybrid protein-polymer materials that mimic and interface with biological systems. This interdisciplinary research program will intersect the fields of polymer science, biomaterials, synthetic biology, and immunology. As part of this research endeavor, I look forward to collaborating with researchers at both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses. I am looking forward to moving to New York and meeting many of you in the coming months!