Michael Guarnieri is a principal investigator in the Biocatalysis and C1 Conversion group at NREL's Biosciences Center. Michael is also a fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute and an affiliate faculty member in the Colorado School of Mines Departments of Chemistry and Chemical and Biological Engineering. Michael's research focuses on development of microbial biotechnologies with applications spanning the fields of bioenergy, bioremediation, and biosecurity. Michael leads a diverse bioenergy research project portfolio that includes the multi-institutional, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Biological and Environmental Research-supported IMAGINE Biosecurity Science Focus Area, which targets development of predictive microbial biocontainment designs via genome-scale engineering, phenomics, and computational modeling. Michael also leads DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office-supported projects focused upon applied microbial metabolic engineering approaches for conversion of lignocellulosic and gaseous waste substrates (CH4, CO2, and CO) to sustainable fuel and chemical intermediates. Additionally, Michael leads the Algae Biotechnology Partnership and Photoreactive Carbon Capture initiatives at NREL, focused on development of high-throughput genetic engineering and phenomics tools and direct air capture technologies in microalgae.

Michael earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where his research focused on protein biochemistry and structure-guided drug design. Prior to his graduate studies, Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Rhode Island College while conducting undergraduate research at Brown University, examining viral secretion and virus–host interactions.

Research Interests

Molecular and Environmental Microbiology

Metabolic Engineering and Biocatalysis

Systems Biology and Genome-Scale Modeling

Biosecurity and Biocontainment

C1 Carbon (CO2, CH4, CO) and Photobiological Reactive Capture Technologies


Ph.D, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Colorado School of Medicine

B.A., Chemistry, Rhode Island College

Featured Work

Biotechnology for Secure Biocontainment Designs in an Emerging Bioeconomy, Current Opinion in Biotechnology (2021)

Ribulose-1, 5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase (RubisCO) Is Essential for Growth of the Methanotroph Methylococcus capsulatus Strain Bath, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2021)

Synthetic Microbial Communities of Heterotrophs and Phototrophs Facilitate Sustainable Growth, Nature Communications (2020)

Transforming the Carbon Economy: Challenges and Opportunities in the Convergence of Low-Cost Electricity and Reductive CO2 Utilization, Energy & Environmental Science (2020)

Development of a CRISPR/Cas9 System for Methylococcus capsulatus In Vivo Gene Editing, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2019)

Development of a High-Productivity, Halophilic, Thermotolerant Microalga Picochlorum renovo, Communications Biology (2019)

Bioconversion of Methane to Lactate by an Obligate Methanotrophic Bacterium, Scientific Reports (2016)

Genome-Scale Metabolic Model for the Green Alga Chlorella vulgaris UTEX 395 Accurately Predicts Phenotypes Under Autotrophic, Heterotrophic, and Mixotrophic Growth Conditions, Plant Physiology (2016)

Algal Omics: Unlocking Bioproduct Diversity in Algae Cell Factories, Photosynthesis Research (2014)

Lignin Valorization through Integrated Biological Funneling and Chemical CatalysisProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2014)


Organic Acid Synthesis From C1 Substrates, U.S. Patent No. 10,889,821 (2021)

Xylose Utilizing Oleaginous Yeast, U.S. Patent No. 10,533,196 (2020)

Organic Acid Synthesis From C1 Substrates, U.S. Patent No. 10,435,693 B2 (2019)

Organic Acid Synthesis From C1 Substrates, U.S. Patent No. 10,435,693 (2019)

Lignin Conversion to Fuels, Chemicals and Materials, U.S. Patent No. 10,266,852 (2019)