Biomolecular Engineering

Biomolecules, including DNA, RNA, proteins, peptides and the constellation of small molecules made by cells, are the molecules that fuel life. Biomolecular engineering is the analysis and engineering of these living systems. Our research uses techniques from synthetic biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, and cell biology to quantify and manipulate the three-dimensional structure and function of molecules and macromolecular assemblies for potential medical applications.

Synthetic biology includes the development of biosensors or genetic circuits to assist in the design and optimization of metabolically engineered strains. An important tool in this area — recognized by the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to Princeton Engineering alumna Frances Arnold — is directed evolution, which involves the generation of large libraries of protein mutants at the genetic level followed by screening or selection of functional variants.

Computational efforts in this area help illuminate the structure and conformations of biomolecules over a range of physiological environments, including unusual environments like subfreezing temperatures or solutions with high concentrations of denaturants.


  • José L. Avalos

    Metabolic Engineering; Synthetic Biology; Structural Biology and Protein Engineering; Systems Biology; Protein Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Clifford P. Brangwynne

    Patterning in Developing Embryos; Physical Properties and Function of RNA/Protein Bodies; Architecture and Dynamics of the Cytoskeleton
  • Mark P. Brynildsen

    Host-pathogen Interactions; Bacterial Persistence
  • Pablo G. Debenedetti

    Liquid State Theory; Glass Transition; Nucleation Theory; Protein Thermodynamics; Molecular Simulation; Biopreservation
  • A. James Link

    Protein Engineering; Peptides; Natural Products; Antibiotics; Microbiology; Genomics; Supramolecular Chemistry
  • Robert K. Prud'homme

    Flow in Porous Media; Micro and Nanofluidic Phenomena; Rheology; Colloidal Dispersions; Polymer Engineering
  • Stanislav Y. Shvartsman

    Quantitative Analysis of Pattern Formation and Morphogenesis in Developing Tissues; Genetics, Genomics and Computation of Signaling Pathways
  • Michael A. Webb

    Theory and simulation of soft/polymeric materials; computational materials design; multiscale simulation; machine-learning in molecular modeling

Associated Faculty

  • Daniel Cohen

    Bioengineering: biomaterials, biomechanics, swarm behavior
  • Mohamed S. Donia

    Honor and Awards ASPIRE Award (Advancing Science Through Pfizer Investigator Research Exchange Research Awards), Pfizer, 2018
  • William M Jacobs

    Honors and Awards NIH-Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Fellowship, 2016 Gates Cambridge Scholar, 2010 NSF Graduate Research Fellow, 2010 Affiliations
  • Sabine Petry

    Molecular architecture and function of the microtubule cytoskeleton; X-ray crystallography and engineering; biophysical methods
  • Jared Toettcher

    Cell Signaling Pathways; Cellular Optogenetics; High-resolution Microscopy; Biochemistry/Cell Biology; Systems Biology; Signal Processing
  • Martin Wühr

    Molecular Self-organization; Protein Partitioning; Quantitative Proteomics