Sustainable Materials from Engineered Protein Biopolymers

Proteins have evolved to have an incredible range of functions – from superb catalysts to resilient materials. For these reasons, protein biopolymers have the potential to serve as sustainable, biodegradable materials that could potentially displace petroleum-derived plastics that currently dominate the marketplace. However, protein-based materials typically lack the performance materials properties found in traditional plastic materials. This research project seeks to develop biocompatible processes to improve the strength and ductility of protein materials. To accomplish these goals, a panel of protein biopolymers based on natively evolved protein sequences will be engineered with varying assembly and crosslinking domains. The engineered proteins will be produced in a heterologous host and isolated prior to testing. The proteins will then be processed using a range of green chemistry methods to create thin films and fibers and the impact of molecular design changes on materials properties will be established. 

Name of Lab: Obermeyer Research Group

Direct Supervisor: Allie Obermeyer

Hours per week: 40 hr/week

Position type: On site

Qualifications: Biology, chemistry, willingness to work collaboratively and/or independently

Eligibility: Sophomore, Junior

SEAS students only: Yes

Allie Obermeyer, [email protected]