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Michael Himmel — Research Fellow

A principal scientist in the Biosciences Center, Dr. Michael Himmel has more than 30 years of experience in conducting, supervising, and planning research in: protein biochemistry, recombinant technology, enzyme engineering, new micro-organism discovery, and physicochemistry of macromolecules. He leads a team of 36 staff in NREL's Biomolecular Sciences group.

Dr. Himmel is a biochemist whose work on cellulase greatly simplified and lowered the cost of converting biomass to fuel.

Research Areas

Today, Dr. Himmel manages the award-winning cellulase enzyme technology effort, as well as one major industrial and several academic subcontracts that support this work. The researchers have assembled world-class protein purification and characterization facilities at NREL, with special emphasis on robotics systems for screening libraries derived from directed evolution technology.

Professional Experience

  • Supervised research on stabilizing and improving important industrial enzymes by mutagenesis and rational protein design.
  • Supported many technical aspects of the U.S. Department of Energy Biomass Program.
  • Developed new facilities at NREL for biomass conversion research, including the Cellulase Biochemical Laboratory, a biomass surface characterization laboratory, and a protein crystallography laboratory.

International Contributions

Chaired or co-chaired 15 international meetings in the field of biochemistry and biotechnology, including the 2003 Gordon Research Conference on "Cellulases and Cellulosomes."


Colorado State University, Ph.D., Biochemistry, 1980
University of Northern Colorado, Bachelor of Science

Professional Activities/Memberships

Serves on the editorial boards of the scientific journals ScienceBioenergy Research and Cellulose.

Honors, Awards, and Recognition

2004: Won an R&D 100 Award for "Advanced Cellulase System for Biomass Conversion"
2011: Named a Battelle Memorial Institute Distinguished Inventor.

NREL Publications and Patents

Since beginning work at NREL in 1980, Dr. Himmel he has contributed more than 450 journal papers, meeting abstracts books, patents, and copyrights. He is co-editor-in-chief ofBiotechnology for Biofuels.

View all NREL publications for Michael Himmel.