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Michael R. Diehl

Michael Diehl cropAssociate Professor of Bioengineering
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Synthetic Biology and Macromolecular Systems Bioengineering Group

Beckman Senior Research Fellow, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering,
California Institute of Technology (2002-2005)
Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, University of California at Los Angeles (2002)
B.S., Chemistry, The College of New Jersey (1997)

Bio Sketch

Michael Diehl uses an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the complex function of proteins when they interact as functional groups. By combining elements from nanotechnology, protein engineering, advanced optics, and biophysics, he is developing biosynthetic techniques to manipulate multi-component architectures of protein assemblies with nanometer-scale precision. He is also developing new protein detection technologies that address the challenges of determining where and when proteins interact in cells.   

Much of Diehl’s work is focused on understanding the collective function of motor proteins. He and his research group have developed new methods to create structurally defined assemblies of motor molecules, or "chain gangs." They are also uniquely combining synthetic technologies with advanced optical instrumentation to examine the collective motor motions and force-production of motor proteins. This capability allows the group to dissect complex mechanisms that govern how subcellular objects move in cells and that are important for unraveling the molecular-scale causes of transport-related diseases.

In 2006, Diehl won an Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation for his research into collective motor protein dynamics using integral biosynthetic and single-molecule approaches. The investigations are linked to future drug delivery applications and understanding of diseases. Other outstanding achievements include a Welch Foundation Research Grant (2006), Rice University Hamill Research Innovation Award (2006, 2011, 2015), Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society (2007), Institute of Bioscience and Bioengineering Medical Innovation Awards (2007, 2009); Research Excellence Award  from the W.M. Keck Foundation (2008), and the Houston Society for Engineering in Medicine and Biology (HSEMB) Outstanding Young Scientist Award (2009).

Research Statement

Diehl's Macromolecular Systems Bioengineering Group studies the cooperative dynamics of proteins and their operation as highly organized and integrated assemblies; develops engineering approaches that enable model systems of natural multiprotein assemblies to be reconstructed in vitro while preserving the intricate molecular features of these assemblies; and uses instrumentation to investigate the collective protein dynamics of these systems with single-molecule precision. This research concentrates on in vitro modeling of intracellular trafficking and transport, and encoding the self-organized mechanics of internally driven filaments.