Two UC Santa Barbara junior faculty members are among the 10 “Scientists to Watch,” according to Science News, a bi-weekly magazine with more than 115,000 subscribers. Michelle O’Malley, in chemical engineering, and Andrea Young, in physics, were selected based on their innovative research and contributions to their fields. The annual list of groundbreaking scientists recognizes early- and mid-career scholars, age 40 or under, who are shaping the science of the future.
This year’s awardees were all nominated by Nobel laureates, recently elected members of the National Academy of Sciences, and past Science News scientists to watch.
“It’s truly a great honor to be recognized and to know our work stood out to someone widely recognized and respected,” said O’Malley, an associate professor in the chemical engineering department. “My research sits at the interface of biology and engineering. So it’s especially gratifying to be recognized alongside this multi-disciplinary collection of researchers. They have contributed in fields that include everything from climate change and astrochemistry to quantum mechanics.”
O’Malley’s research focuses on the biotech potential of microbes, which may have significant applications when it comes to renewable energy and manufacturing chemicals and drugs. Her most recent work investigated the functions of anaerobic gut fungi, primitive microbes found mainly in large herbivores. The fungi’s enzymes and unique ability to transform cellulose from plants into sugars could offer new sources of biofuels and methods of producing the next generation of pharmaceuticals.
Melissa Walker is the Communications Coordinator for the Department of Chemical Engineering.